Today, it is a pleasure to welcome another new guest to All Things Georgian, Peter Kennison, co-author of ‘Policing From Bow Street: Principal Officers, Runners and The Patroles’, who is going to tell us more about the early origins of policing, so I’ll hand over to him to tell more:
In 2014 Lucy Inglis was perceptive in her brilliant book Georgian London when she wrote that “Less has changed than you might think” something which is certainly true of Bow Street as the centre from which policing in the UK commenced.
Today the Bow Street Tavern exists at 37 Bow Street and if you are lucky enough to be invited down in the cellars you will see the dark damp cell where the Bow Street constables of the 1750s onwards lodged their prisoners. In their day the public house was called the Brown Bear and in 270 years only its name has changed. The Brown Bear was not only the prison for lodging prisoners by the court, but it was also the place where the so-called Bow Street runners took their refreshments. Situated Immediately opposite the public house was the Bow Street Public Office and courthouse at no. 4 Bow Street – originally established by the Trading Justice Sir Thomas De Veil.
The existing medieval system of watch and ward designed to police the masses was breaking down. Societal change and urban growth were destabilising the fabric of society. Weak, independent local Government added another layer of complexity and ineffectiveness. The playwright and magistrate Henry Fielding realised the ineffectiveness of the Parish Police Parochial Watch system that press-ganged traders and merchants into doing their civil duty for one year as Constables. Each Parish Watch operated independently within its own boundary, but since crime fails to respect boundaries many perpetrators escaped.
Crimes committed often went unreported and unrecorded for want of a real central police organisation. A further weakness in the law enforcement system inevitably bred public corruption and led to a deterioration in public morals. Unscrupulous and dishonest individuals found themselves in positions of power as Trading Justices, dispensing the law to a fee-paying public.
Public disorder became a problem; religious, political and social grievances expressed themselves in public scenes of dissatisfaction. Life on the Hogarthian margins was laid bare, with rampant prostitution, drunkenness, hooliganism, bawdy houses and civil disorder. Something had to be done.
The Runners were created by the playwright and magistrate Henry Fielding who in 6 short years created a plan of policing to combat the crime problems into principals we follow today. Fielding created his own constabulary of 6 trusted men taken from the 80 parish constables who had been elected in the City of Westminster for 1 year. This indicated that not many of those selected were up to the job. With the help of Sanders Welch the High Constable of Holborn they established rules in policing practice which every person who holds the office of constable today.
Later they were erroneously known as Runners was a title given to them by the newspapers in the 1780s at roughly the same time that the Bow Street Foot Patroles were introduced. The names and details of these six or so early policemen were deliberately kept secret by Fielding to avoid them being identified as constables nonetheless these were like-minded public-spirited individuals seeking the common good. But who were the men of Bow Street? Those intrepid constables who were the first Principal Officers of the court who from the start – learned the so-called “fundamentals of policing” or its perceptual blueprint. Henry Fielding became the first Stipendiary magistrate funded by the Government as he wished to distance himself from the corrupt practices he witnessed by the other Westminster Trading Justices in dispensing justice. He needed to build an honest reputation that would give confidence to victims and witnesses of crime to come forward and report what they knew. The Bow Street officers made good progress in ridding the streets and highways of dangerous Robbers and footpads.
Bow Street’s gradual success took on something akin to a mythical status. The myth attributed to the Runners was acquired in retrospect was of a group of active individuals who uncovered law-breaking and arrested felons. There was seemingly no hiding place for offenders and Bow Street always got their man, even though they were just a small group of no more than eight investigators.[i] What also added to this myth were numbers of other Bow Street constables because these were not just small numbers.
There were other patroles at Bow Street who supplemented the “Thief Takers”, and they sometimes numbered nearly 300. By the 1780s public signs of hostility over religious grievances caused public disorder resulting in military overreaction. A civil body was needed.
A Bow Street Foot patrole was created in 1782 numbering over 68 although a Bow Street Horse patrole had been experimented with in 1763 and whilst very successful only lasted a year when the Government withdrew funds. These mounted patroles, however, were resurrected in 1805 and later laid the basis of the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch.
The Horse patrole consisted of 2 Inspectors, 4 deputy Inspectors and 54 constables. Then there were the 100 constables of the Dismounted Horse Patrole and by 1821 28 members of the uniformed day patrole so in the later stages of Bow Street they numbered 264 in total. The Runners built up a reputation based on their detective skills and investigated mainly property crime whilst the plain clothes heavily armed foot patroles went out onto the streets at dusk until midnight in groups of 5 operating out from Westminster to a distance of 4 miles. This was every day, 365 days a year and they became a familiar sight on the streets of Westminster Surrey, Kent, Essex and Middlesex becoming a familiar sight on London’s streets.
Fielding and Welch both instilled an esprit de corps that helped galvanise the group into an effective crime-fighting force. It was this spirit of comradery which contributed to the myth in what Critchley (1967) asserts:
This roisterous body of men some of whom made substantial fortunes out of shady business in trafficking in crime, undoubtedly… creating in their own lifetime the myth of the Bow Street Runners.
The success of Bow Street not only hinged on its mythical status, but the way Henry Fielding laid out his plan to combat crime was unique. This he termed as moving from “Madness to Method”. Once his constabulary was in place they went out onto the streets established informants for information on offenders who they paid them out of their own pockets and if successful they would pocket the state reward of up to £40 on successful conviction of a felony – a more serious crime.
He established Bow Street as the ‘Go to’ place to report their crimes where he had his men available to record these matters into Criminal Registers. These early Registers reported the time, place, method descriptions, value of property stolen, witnesses (+ their addresses) or either real or likely names (or pseudonyms) of suspects.
Prisoners were brought to his court on other matters where he had invited the general public to view proceedings and possibly identify likely perpetrators. Also invited were the newspapers who meticulously reported proceedings under the heading of Bow Street daily to a news-hungry public.
Fielding also established his own successful newspaper which he used to highlight particular crimes reported to Bow Street and these also included matters alerted to him at Bow Street from Magistrates in the shires surrounding London and sometimes beyond. On the report of a felony, a reserve of 2 Bow Street principal officers were waiting to take details, search the registers for descriptions before they ventured out at any time of the day or night on the fast response vehicle at the time – the horse. Fielding only selected those of his officers for the job if they were highly-skilled as good horsemen, often brave battle-hardened ex-cavalry soldiers who had served the army with credit. The men were well-trained, properly armed and good marksmen.
The constables appreciated the dangers of violence towards them under these circumstances and often went in sufficient numbers. His methods of sudden pursuit paid dividends since many highwaymen were swiftly caught and brought back to court to face examination. With an added confidence, soon more witnesses and victims of crime attended the court to make their reports, with each case being investigated and acted on quickly. Quick response has become a useful police strategy.
The Fieldings newspaper was the early forerunner to the Police Gazette still circulated to Police organisations today. Historians have viewed this part of police history at Bow Street Public Office as an irrelevance not to be taken seriously because little is known about the detail. The Whig historians claim that these later Runners were a corrupt group of men whose services could be bought or who would frame innocent people to gain the state (£40) reward. Whilst this was more true later at the turn of the century onwards the men of Bow Street were properly regulated, honest, public-spirited thief-takers.
These honest men were not to be confused with the common and disreputable thief-taker general, Jonathon Wild, whose corrupt gang fitted up unsuspecting people to claim the rewards. What seems to add fuel to this flame and probably a reason none of the runners were employed as Metropolitan Police detectives was that when for example, the most famous Bow Street Runner John Townsend died in 1832 he left investments totalling £25,000, getting on for £1,237,250 in today’s money and this was the same for other principal officers.
Peter’s book can be obtained from Mango Books by following the highlighted link, at £25 plus £3.55 postage for the hardcover cover. He also has a limited supply at £21 post free via PayPal at email@example.com on a first-come, first-served basis.
[i] Beattie, J. M. (2012) The First English Detectives. Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 264.
Today we have the final part of the story about General James Wolfe, so I’ll hand you over to Kim to complete this and take this opportunity to say a massive ‘Thank You’ to Kim, for all her hard work in writing this fascinating story.
If by any chance you missed any of the first 3 parts, click on the following links – Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.
Events moved quickly, and not only in Wolfe’s professional life.
Her name was Katherine Lowther, and she was his parents’ “pretty neighbour” at Bath, whose sleep he had apologised for disturbing by his clattering departure one winter morning two years before. Her pedigree was impeccable: her father had been a governor of Barbados; one of her grandfathers was a baronet, his wife the daughter of a viscount; her sister was the Countess of Darlington. It was not the coup de foudre which had shattered Wolfe’s life in 1749 and he said he had “no thought of matrimony”, but there was clearly commitment; and he took his final leave of his parents by letter, claiming that he disliked the emotional business of parting. Henrietta Wolfe remained jealous and suspicious, and Lieutenant-General Edward Wolfe altered his will, leaving his considerable estate to his wife with no provision for his son.
Wolfe learned of this in Louisbourg in May, following a rough passage in H.M.S. Neptune to New York, and from there to a fogbound Halifax, the harbour of which was still choked with ice. Edward Wolfe’s death in March had not been unexpected, as “I left him in so weak a condition that it was not probable we should ever meet again”, but the financial blow was a heavy one, although he wrote to Henrietta from “the Banks of the St. Lawrence, 31st August 1759… I approve entirely of my father’s disposition of his affairs, though perhaps it may interfere a little matter with my plan of quitting the service, which I am determined to do at the first opportunity⸺ I mean so as not to be absolutely distressed in circumstance, nor burdensome to you or anyone else.”
He had made his will aboard Neptune, leaving to Katherine the miniature she had given him, “to be set in jewels to the amount of five hundred guineas, and returned to her.”
Perhaps the future would always be only this: an endless repetition of the past. A flirtation with life, the certainty of death, an evanescent dream.
He disposed, generously, of his other assets, and his aides witnessed his signature. There was nothing else, nothing more. The rest, even she, was an illusion.
He burned his personal journal for August, with its bitter catalogue of affront, resentment, suspicion, foreboding and depression, and its accounts of “a sad episode of dysentery”, not now uncommon in an army encamped in extreme heat and humidity, and increasingly severe bouts of renal colic. He had asked for something to ease the pain, fearing that events would slip beyond his control and that he would be unable to prosecute this final attack on a tenacious and unaccommodating enemy.
My antagonist has wisely shut himself up in inaccessible entrenchments, so that I cannot get at him without spilling a torrent of blood, and that perhaps to little purpose. The Marquis de Montcalm is at the head of a great number of bad soldiers, and I am at the head of a small number of good ones, that wish for nothing so much as to fight him; but the wary old fellow avoids an action, doubtful of the behaviour of his army. People must be of the profession to understand the disadvantages and difficulties we labour under, arising from the uncommon natural strength of the country.
Rumours of his illness had disconcerted men already unnerved by a summer of skirmishes and scalpings and sniping by disaffected habitants bearing arms and grudges against the British.
The French did not attempt to interrupt our march. Some of the savages came down to murder such of the wounded as could not be brought off, and to scalp the dead, as their custom is… Scarce a night passes when they are not close upon our posts, watching an opportunity to surprise and murder. There is very little quarter given on either side.
It revolted him. His orders of the 24th of July read: “The General strictly forbids the inhuman practice of scalping, except when the enemies are Indians or Canadians dressed as Indians,” but a subsequent order posted a bounty of five guineas for an aboriginal scalp. The Canadians were offering a similar reward for a British scalp, and after a Captain Alexander Montgomery of the 43rd Foot found his brother’s body “cruelly mutilated by the savages” he had reciprocated in a manner they understood: he and his men had murdered and scalped a priest and twenty of his congregation when they had refused to disarm in St. Joachim on the 23rd of August.
In every man of every race the creed of the frontier, the inner savage, was asserting itself.
No churches, houses or buildings of any kind are to be burned or destroyed without orders. The persons that remain in their habitations, their women and children are to be treated with humanity. If any violence is offered to a woman, the offender shall be punished with death. If any persons are detected robbing the tents of officers or soldiers they will be, if convicted, certainly executed. The commanders of regiments are to be answerable that no rum, or spirits of any kind, be sold in or near the camp.
But it was the enemy within he hated: not Montcalm, not the Canadians, not the Iroquois Confederacy, but a confederacy of his own brigadiers, sworn to subvert, discredit and undermine his authority.
His right to choose his own staff officers had been a condition of his acceptance of command, and he had thought he knew them: his aides, Captains Hervey Smith and Thomas Bell, remained loyal and protective of him.
An Irish major named Isaac Barré was adjutant-general: he had not yet betrayed Wolfe’s trust. The others were his quartermaster-general Lieutenant-Colonel Guy Carleton, an Irish veteran of Flanders whose commission for Louisbourg the King had refused to sign because Carleton had insulted the Hanoverians: even Carleton, a friend, had offended Wolfe by his “abominable behaviour”; the Honourable Robert Monckton, brigadier-general commanding the first battalion, who had been lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia and had overseen operations in the Bay of Fundy after Louisbourg; and the Honourable James Murray, brigadier-general commanding the third battalion, a touchy Scot whose brother was a known Jacobite, and who had served in Flanders and at Rochefort and Louisbourg. He was increasingly influenced by Colonel the Honourable George Townshend, honorary brigadier-general in command of the second battalion. Townshend had been Pitt’s choice, not Wolfe’s. He had fought in Flanders and at Culloden, been aide-de-camp to Cumberland and then to George II, and was called by Horace Walpole “proud, sullen and contemptuous”. He was also a maliciously talented cartoonist and had satirized Cumberland to the detriment of his own career. He now found in Wolfe both subject and target and was circulating with impunity his caricatures of ‘Our General’, hinting that Wolfe’s judgment was clouded by opium and that his refusal to disclose his plan of attack was indecision or, at worst, paranoia.
Wolfe was, by his own admission, “so ill and so weak that I begged the General Officers to consult together for the public utility and advantage; and to consider of the best method of attacking the enemy.” He offered them what he called “a choice of difficulties”. They rejected all three options and mooted one of their own, Townshend claiming afterwards that Wolfe had never had any intention of forcing a pitched battle at Quebec.
For a man who was bluffing or indecisive, or too ill or too drugged to function, his mind remained exceptionally focused, detailing the siting and calibre of artillery, and designating specific ships, batteries, and signals; collating information from every source including deserters, whom he questioned himself; conducting solo reconnaissances on foot or by boat; noting the dispersal of Montcalm’s forces, the Duc de Lévis somewhere between Quebec and Montreal with an army of 4,000 chosen men, Colonel Louis-Antoine de Bougainville at Cap-Rouge with another 3,000 regulars, militia and aboriginals; reading the reports of shortages and damages within the city; considering the logistics: the immutable, the inalienable, the impossible. He knew every officer and had trained and drilled personally many of the men: the combined forces were now a weapon poised to strike when the time and the tide and the peculiarities of the river and the phase of the moon dictated. He had seen the place in early July and had conferred with the navy’s navigators and cartographers, among them James Cook. The time was now.
Those commanders he trusted he briefed in full, including the navy, with which close co-operation was vital. He issued his final orders on the afternoon of September 12th, from aboard H.M.S. Sutherland.
The enemy’s force is now divided; great scarcity of provisions is in their camp and universal discontent among the Canadians. The second officer is gone to Montreal or St. John’s, which gives reason to think that General Amherst is advancing into the colony. A vigorous blow struck by the army at this juncture may determine the fate of Canada. Our troops below are in readiness to join us; all the light artillery and tools are embarked at Point Levi, and the troops will land where the French seem least to expect it.
The first body that gets onshore is to march directly to the enemy and drive them from any little post they may occupy. The officers must be careful that the succeeding bodies do not by any mistake fire upon those who go before them. The battalions must form on the upper ground with the expedition, and be ready to charge whatever presents itself. When the artillery and troops are landed, a corps will be left to secure the landing-place, while the rest march on, and endeavour to bring the French and Canadians to a battle. The officers and men will remember what their country expects from them, and what a determined body of soldiers, inured to war, is capable of doing against five weak French battalions mingled with disorderly peasantry. The soldiers must be attentive and obedient to their officers, and the officers resolute in the execution of their duty.
At 8:00 p.m., as the troops were climbing down into Sutherland’s boats, he received a letter signed by all three brigadiers demanding further clarification. Security was necessary, they conceded, but they had not been taken fully into the General’s confidence, and their orders were not specific.
He wrote to Monckton:
My reason for desiring the honour of your company with me to Gorham’s Post yesterday was to show you, as well as the distance, would permit, the situation of the enemy, and the place where I meant they should be attacked. The place is called the Foulon, distant upon two miles or two and a half from Quebec… as several Ships of War are to fall down with troops Mr Holmes will be able to station them properly after he has seen the place… The officers who are appointed to conduct the divisions of boats have been strictly enjoined to keep as much order and to act as silently as the nature of the service will admit of. It is not usual to point out in the public orders the direct spot of our attack, nor for any inferior officers not charged with a particular duty to ask instruction upon that point. I had the honour to inform you today that it is my duty to attack the French army. To the best of my knowledge and ability, I have fixed upon that spot where we can act with the most force and are the most likely to succeed. If I am mistaken, I am sorry and must be answerable to his Majesty and the public for the consequences.
To Townshend, controlling his dislike, he wrote:
Brigadier-General Monckton is charged with the first landing and attack at the Foulon, if he succeeds you will be pleased to give directions that the troops afloat be set on shore with the utmost expedition, as they are under your command, and when 3,600 men now in the fleet are landed I have no manner of doubt but that we are able to fight and beat the French army, in which I know you will give your best assistance.
To Murray, who was under Monckton’s command, he wrote nothing.
At 2:00 a.m., time and tide ebbing, Sutherland’s barge took the lead.
On the right of the line to the edge of the cliffs, with Wolfe in personal command, the 35th, the Louisbourg Grenadiers, the 28th, the 43rd. In the centre under Monckton, Lascelles’, the 47th: Scots who had fought Scots at Prestonpans and Culloden. On the left, Murray with the 78th, the Fraser Highlanders, born, perhaps, of a conversation one evening in Inverness between Wolfe and Simon Fraser, whose father, the Jacobite Lord Lovat, had been beheaded for treason in 1747. Fraser had been out with his clan for the Pretender in the ʼ45 and been pardoned in 1750. Wolfe had suggested he raise a regiment for the King, and the Frasers were here now, bristling with the weapons the Disarming Act of 1746 still forbade civilians to carry in Scotland. They were, he acknowledged, among the finest soldiers he had ever known. Beside them, Anstruther’s; and in the second line, where Townshend could do the least damage, the 15th and two battalions of the 60th. In reserve, Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Burton’s 48th in eight sub-divisions; and at the rear Colonel the Honourable William Howe, another friend of Wolfe’s, with the rangers and light infantry.
The French colours surrendered at Louisbourg had been paraded in London and put on display in St. Paul’s Cathedral. He did not want to see these six-foot standards, the King’s colours and these regiments’, so dishonoured in Paris.
Daybreak: just after 5 a.m. The rain fell. They waited, unmoving. The ‘plains’ were fairly level, but patched with cornfields and studded with undergrowth and coppices that afforded cover to native and Canadian marksmen. The French picquets, running, had reached Quebec with intelligence that the entire British army was established on the heights to the westward, on, Montcalm noted, “the weakest side of this miserable garrison,” and had, by their presence, thrown down a psychological gauntlet no soldier of honour could ignore.
By 7 a.m., in showery rain, the French were seen coming out, one eyewitness reported, “like bees from a hive”. Sniping by Canadian irregulars and their aboriginal allies intensified. The French opened fire with artillery, and the hailstorm of lead from the Canadians became “very galling”: rather than sacrifice men’s lives prematurely, Wolfe ordered the infantry to lie down briefly in their ranks. The French formed three columns, some 7,500 men, and at about 10 a.m. began to advance. The thin red lines waited.
Apprȇtez vos armes… En joue… Feu!
From his position on the right, on slightly rising ground, Wolfe observed. A soldier wrote later, “I shall never forget his look. He was surveying the enemy with a countenance radiant and joyful beyond description.”
A bullet tore the tendons of his right wrist. He tied it up with his handkerchief: it seemed to cause no pain. The fire was very hot now from the sharpshooters: he could handle a fusil as well as any sergeant and he tore the cartridge with his teeth and spat out the fragment, and waited; every musket in the line was double-shotted on his orders. Amongst the French, there were shouts: obscenities, jeers, encouragement, shouts of Vive le Roi! and Marquez bien les officiers! And marked they were, in the oblique fire from the Royal Roussillon, the Compagnies Franches de la Marine, the battalions of La Sarre, Languedoc, Béarn, Guyenne: Monckton shot in the chest, his left lung collapsing, Carleton sustaining head wounds, Barré’s nose and left cheekbone smashed by a musket ball, his left eye blinded.
They took it, standing impassively with shouldered arms. One hundred and forty yards: one hundred and twenty. The French had four or five field guns: they had hauled only two up the cliffs. A hundred. Hold your fire. Eighty. Sixty. Hold your fire, damn you. At forty yards, on the command, they opened fire: a single volley in unison, which had the effect of a cannonade. When the smoke cleared the plain was littered with greyish-white uniforms, stained scarlet: the dead, the dying, the mutilated. They fired another five volleys. It was 10:15 a.m. and the sun had come out, glinting on bayonets. From further along the line there was a hiss of drawn steel as the Highlanders unsheathed their broadswords.
A quarter-inch of metal, a bullet or shrapnel from an exploding shell, hit Wolfe in the groin: they were under heavy fire from the front and flank, and he was too conspicuous a target to ignore. He waved his hat, signalling that the whole line should advance; and then two bullets pierced his left breast, and he staggered and almost fell. He was caught, supported. “Hold me up,” he said, “don’t let my brave fellows see me fall.” He leaned on Captain Ralph Corry of the 28th, and then there were others: Lieutenant Henry Browne of the Louisbourg Grenadiers, a volunteer named James Henderson, another officer: blue uniform, red facings. Artillery. He tried to help them, but his strength and his vision were failing: he collapsed, and they carried him through the smoke another hundred yards to the rear. Henderson held him upright while Browne tore at his waistcoat, and saw that his shirt was soaked with blood. He attempted to dress the wound, but the haemorrhage could not be staunched. He asked if Wolfe wanted a surgeon.
“No need,” he said, “it’s all over with me.”
Someone else, a grenadier, was shouting.
“They run! See how they run!”
He stirred, rousing himself, they said afterwards, like a man from a heavy sleep. “Who run?” he said, and the grenadier, shocked by what he was witnessing, answered, “The enemy, sir. Egad, they give way everywhere.”
One more order, and then there would be peace. He said, “Take a message to Colonel Burton. Tell him to take Webb’s with all speed to Charles River, to cut them off before they reach the bridge.”
And then to Browne, whose arms were around him, “Lay me down. I am suffocating.” Browne, crying openly, laid him gently on the ground, and cradled him as he died.
He had been greatly loved, far more than he had known. Browne wrote to his father: “Even the soldiers dropped tears, who were in the minute before driving their bayonets through the French. I can’t compare it to anything better, than a family in tears and sorrow which had just lost their father, their friend, and their whole dependence.” Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Murray of the Louisbourg Grenadiers wrote to his wife, “His death has given me more affliction than anything I have met with, for I loved him with a sincere and friendly affection.”
His body was carried from the field wrapped, it was said, in a plaid offered by a wounded Highlander, and brought aboard the 28-gun frigate H.M.S. Lowestoft at 11 a.m. It was embalmed, and eventually placed in a stone sarcophagus taken from the convent of the Ursulines, which had been heavily damaged by bombardments from the batteries at Pointe aux Pères: Montcalm was buried there at 8 o’clock on the evening of the 14th in an enlarged shell hole in the floor. Quebec capitulated on September 18th. Montreal fell a year later.
News of the victory reached England on October 17th and the country went wild with bonfires and celebrations, although friends and neighbours in Blackheath refused to illuminate their houses out of respect for James’s memory, and his mother’s very real grief.
Wolfe’s body, brought home aboard the 84-gun H.M.S. Royal William, arrived at Spithead at 7 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, 17th November. The raucous port he had called “this infernal den” was hushed as Royal William’s barge, escorted by others and to the sound of tolling bells and muffled drums, conveyed the sarcophagus to Portsmouth Point. Now transferred to an oak coffin and accompanied by Captains Thomas Bell and William De Laune, it was placed in a hearse and driven to Blackheath. It had been discovered on opening the sarcophagus that the face had decomposed too much to allow a death mask to be made: the sculptor Joseph Wilton modelled his commemorative marble bust on a servant thought to resemble Wolfe. He was advised by Richard, second Baron Edgcumbe, a draughtsman and patron of the arts who had known Wolfe and was able to recreate the beaky, angular features to an almost forensic degree.
Wolfe’s coffin, covered with a pall of black velvet and heaped with laurels, lay in state at his mother’s house the night before a private funeral on November 20th at the church of St. Alfege in Greenwich. There were five mourners, all male. Henrietta Wolfe remained prostrate with grief and did not attend.
She petitioned the government unsuccessfully for Wolfe’s pay to be increased to parity with Amherst’s, and “for a pension to enable me to fulfil the generous and kind intentions of my dear lost son”, which she said she could not otherwise honour “without distressing myself to the highest degree.” She did, however, pay the jeweller Philip Hardle £525, and returned the miniature, set with diamonds, to Katherine Lowther as Wolfe had requested. Katherine wrote to her but dared not call on her.
Your displeasure at your noble son’s partiality to one who is only too conscious of her own unworthiness has cost her many a pang. But you cannot without cruelty still attribute to me any coldness in his parting, for, madam, I always felt and express’d for you both reverence and affection, and desir’d you were ever first to be considered.
They never met again.
Henrietta Wolfe died on September 26, 1764, and was interred between her son and her husband in the family vault in the church of St. Alfege. Katherine Lowther married Vice-Admiral Harry Powlett, later the sixth Duke of Bolton, on April 8, 1765. Wolfe’s letters to her and those she wrote to him at Quebec, which arrived too late and were returned to her unopened, have not survived. She died in 1809.
In England, he is all but forgotten. In Canada, the tides of political correctness alternately burnish and tarnish his reputation. The vast, untamed country of which he said “every man is a soldier” is now dedicated to peacekeeping; bears and beavers still roam the wilderness; and the snow, falling early and lingering long, still, in the true north, covers the ground for eight months of the year.
We do hope that you have enjoyed the story so far about General James Wolfe and today we can share with you the 3rd part, with the final part coming up this Thursday. If you’ve missed the first two parts then just follow these highlighted links – Part one and Part two.
There is a tide in the affairs of men/ which, taken at the flood/ leads on to fortune.
The tide turned.
He had written of zeal and ardour. His own had not gone unnoticed. Vice-Admiral Hawke had spoken of his exemplary behaviour at Rochefort to Admiral George Anson, who had mentioned it to the King; the Prince of Wales, summoning ‘Mister Wolfe’ to discuss the newly published Report of the General Officers appointed to Inquire into the causes of the Failure of the Late Expedition to the Coasts of France, opined that had his proposals been adopted the mission would have been a success, and complimented him on the ‘high spirit of service’ and discipline in the 20th, the regiment on which Wolfe had lavished so much care and attention. A second battalion had been authorized, to be designated the 67th Foot. Wolfe was offered a full colonelcy.
There was more…
By Christmas Day it was known in army circles that four colonels, all relatively young, had been chosen to launch a new North American offensive. Jeffrey Amherst, the aide-de-camp to the venerable Field-Marshal Lord Ligonier, commander-in-chief of the forces since the Duke of Cumberland’s disgrace, had been commissioned major-general and would be in overall command. The others were John Forbes, another protégé of Ligonier’s, George Augustus, third Viscount Howe, brother of Captain Richard Howe of H.M.S. Magnanime and a charismatic soldier already serving in America; and the youngest, James Wolfe, who would be temporarily commissioned brigadier-general in North America and serve as second-in-command to Amherst.
Their objective was Cape Breton, an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia held by the French since 1713, and its fortress, Louisbourg. It had been besieged in 1745 and had surrendered, and it had been returned to France under the terms of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. It protected the rich fisheries of the St. Lawrence and was a haven for the privateers who harassed the New England colonies.
Whoever held Louisbourg held the key to Canada. Whoever took Quebec and Montreal would hold North America.
Louisbourg surrendered on the 27th of July, 1758. Its fortifications had appeared impregnable, but it was vulnerable to sustained bombardment from the sea as well as fire from batteries overlooking the harbour, which had been hastily constructed and commanded by James Wolfe. He had been an integral part of the operation, seen everywhere, issuing orders and instructions in a display of physical courage and deeply personal leadership: instantly recognizable with his wings of auburn hair and shabby scarlet coat, without lace or insignia except for the aiguillette on his shoulder. The Highlanders, who had a particular fondness for him (or his Celtic hair, he thought), called him “the red corporal”, and passed the word when he was approaching. He learned to recognize the Gaelic and to appreciate the nickname. “Tall and straight as a rush,” one of them said, recalling him in 1828.
Oh, he was a noble fellow. And so kind and attentive to the men, that they would go through fire and water to serve him.
Lieutenant Thomas Bell, a marine, reported that he
built fresh batterys every day… and with his small corps came and took post within 200 yards of the town, while the engineers were still bouggering at 600 yards distance. He opened the trenches, called in the army, and pushed them within forty yards of the glacis and in short took the place without the assistance of anyone regular fumbler. He has been general, soldier, and engineer. He commanded, fought and built batterys and I need not add has acquired all the glory of our expedition.
He called them ‘brother soldiers’: they remembered him, sunburned and sweating, sitting amongst them, red hair tied back with a piece of cord, scribbling a message to Amherst
from the trenches at Daybreak, the 25th. We want platforms, artillery officers to take the direction, and ammunition. If these are sent early, we may batter in breach this afternoon… Holland has opened a new boyau, has carried on about 140 or 150 yards and is now within 50 or 60 yards of the glacis… You will be pleased to indulge me with six hours’ rest, that I may serve in the trenches at night.
They breached the bastions. Heated shot had already destroyed L’Entrepreneur. The Royal Navy commanded by Admiral the Honourable Edward Boscawen cut out the Bienfaisant in the harbour and burned the Prudent; and, confronted with the prospect of point-blank broadsides and an assault by the fourteen battalions under Amherst’s command, the governor, Augustin de Boschenry de Drucour capitulated and asked for terms. He and his garrison of 3,500 became prisoners of war and were transported to England. Amherst considered an attack on Quebec: Wolfe, never shy of speaking his mind, urged him forcefully to seize the moment.
Boscawen demurred, announcing on August 3rd that he would not support the idea: the fogs and storms of summer in Cape Breton would usher in the equinoctial gales, and the St. Lawrence would freeze in the winter. There was only time to destroy the enemy’s fisheries in the Gulf.
They were a legitimate target. Twenty-six local chaloupes had sailed the week before laden with tons of dried cod for Quebec, where, the crew of a captured French sloop had said, “there was a great scarcity of provisions and great distress.” And Wolfe was grieving for Howe, who had been among a thousand killed in an attack in the wilderness near Ticonderoga on July 6th by 3,000 French regulars and their native American allies under the command of Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm de Saint-Véran. Many of the dead had been scalped. The war had had its moments of chivalry, in the graceful exchange between Amherst and Mme Drucour of pineapples for champagne and fresh butter, but it had become a thing of unique horror, and the men who waged it would be stained by it.
They burned nets, boats, buildings and 30,000 pounds of dried cod. Privately, Wolfe thought the inhabitants of the Gaspé would starve; but it was war, and Quebec would starve also.
He sailed for home with Boscawen at the end of September, missing by days a letter from the War Office ordering him to remain in Nova Scotia. He wrote to Rickson from London:
Our attempt to land where we did was rash and injudicious, our success was unexpected (by me) and undeserved. There was no prodigious measure of courage in the affair; an officer and thirty men would have made it impossible to get where we did. Our proceedings in other respects were as slow and tedious as this undertaking was ill-advised and desperate. We lost time at the siege, still more after the siege, and blundered from the beginning to the end of the campaign.
… I have this day signified to Mr Pitt that he may dispose of my slight carcase as he pleases. I am in a very bad condition both with the gravel and rheumatism, but I had much rather die than decline any kind of service that offers. If I followed my own taste, it would lead me into Germany. However, it is not our part to choose, but to obey.
And to one of his captains: “It is my fortune to be cursed with American service.”
He was now a household name in Britain. The London Gazette, The London Magazine, The Gentleman’s Magazine, The Scots Magazine, were printing letters and eyewitness reports from men who had served at Louisbourg, extolling the extraordinary exploits of the young Brigadier James Wolfe.
In the middle of December, the Prime Minister summoned him. If the past was the prologue, James Wolfe’s entire life had been merely the prologue to Quebec.
Join us again, in a couple of days for the final part of this story.
Although preliminary peace talks between Britain and France had begun in the summer of 1746, the bloody and protracted War of the Austrian Succession ground to a halt only with the ratification of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in October of 1748. Its terms merely restored the status quo and sowed the seeds of another war.
By then Wolfe had spent several years in garrisons in Scotland, escaping the punishing climate and hostile inhabitants only briefly for a return to conventional soldiering in the Low Countries, and to London on leave in the winter of 1746. And there, hardened veteran of several campaigns, he surrendered his heart and fell “hopelessly in love”. Those who had thought him disinterested in women or only a brain fixated on promotion in a passionless body, or a repressed homosexual, although nothing in his letters or relationships suggested this, were stunned by its effect on him.
She was Elizabeth Lawson, maid of honour to the Princess of Wales and niece of Wolfe’s old mentor, Lieutenant-General Sir John Mordaunt. They were reunited when, now lieutenant-colonel of the 20th Regiment of Foot and gaunt from the scurvy and malnutrition of too many cold years in the Highlands, he was at last granted, not the foreign leave he had requested, hoping to repair what he saw as the deficiencies in his education by studying engineering and artillery tactics at the military academy in Metz, but six months in London.
He was still in the throes of what his mother called his “senseless passion” and in no mood for opposition, although his parents were, as he wrote to his close friend, Colonel William Rickson, “somewhat against it”. The pressure from his mother was unrelenting, he told Rickson: she thought he could do better than Elizabeth Lawson and her £12,000 and had her eye “upon one with £30,000.”
He arrived at his parents’ house in Old Burlington Street and immediately found himself embroiled in psychological warfare. Elizabeth, who obsessed him, had obviously cooled toward him and was entertaining other suitors; the Croydon heiress, his mother told him, was still available with her £30,000; and was James aware that Lady Lawson, Elizabeth’s mother, had been a loose woman before her marriage, and it was possible that her daughter was the same?
Henrietta Wolfe had gone too far. She had occasionally, in her letters, reproached her son for his temper: he had frequently apologised and attempted to control it. But something vital in James Wolfe snapped that day and he turned its full fury on her, and then stalked out of the house and took lodgings in a nearby street, where, to the fascination of the neighbours, he relieved his emotional and sexual frustrations in the longest and most uncharacteristic debauch of his life.
Rumour had it that he had arrived drunk at a ball and loudly proclaimed his love for Elizabeth Lawson, and threatened to horsewhip a rival: whatever indiscretions he committed, Elizabeth warmed no more to this new, rake hell incarnation than to the staid James Wolfe she knew. She ended the relationship. Shattered, he lost himself in alcohol, emerging briefly to listen from the public gallery to debates in the House of Commons on the future of British North America, until his outraged body rebelled and he became ill. His mother continued her campaign. He wrote to her in anguish,
How could you tell me you liked her, and at the same time say her illness prevents her wedding? I don’t think you believe she ever touched me at all, or you could never speak of her ill-health and marriage, the only things in relation to that lady that could give me the least uneasiness.
He wrote to his father with a certain battered dignity, “You called my situation ridiculous, and indeed it was,” and apologised for what he said had been done “out of passion and anger when I had the honour to be near you.” To his friend Rickson, he confessed:
In that time I committed more imprudent acts than in all my life before. I lived in the idlest, most dissolute, abandoned manner that could be conceived, and not out of vice, which is the most extraordinary part of it. I have escaped at length, and am once again master of my reason, and hereafter it shall rule my conduct, at least I hope so.
He never recovered. Four years later, her portrait in Sir John Mordaunt’s dining room still disconcerted him so much that he could barely eat, and any mention of her name affected him profoundly.
He took his wounded heart to Paris. The Croydon heiress unexpectedly bestowed her £30,000 on one of his best friends in February of 1751. Elizabeth Lawson died, unmarried, a few months before he sailed for Quebec.
For a few brief months, in this interlude of peace under the auspices of the Earl of Albemarle, His Britannic Majesty’s ambassador in Paris, James Wolfe knew luxury: warmth, cleanliness, leisure, and more than adequate nourishment, eating for breakfast every morning fresh grapes from a convent garden, “the same as the King eats, and a great curiosity.” His health improved: his energy seemed boundless.
Monsieur Fesian, the dancing-master, assures me that I make a surprising progress, but that my time will be too short to possess, as he calls it, the minuet to any great perfection; however, he pretends to say that I shall dance not to be laughed at. I am on horseback every morning at break of day and do presume that, with the advantage of long legs and thighs, I shall be able to sit a horse at a hand-gallop. Lastly, the fencing-master declares me to have a very quick wrist, and no inconsiderable lunge, for the reasons aforementioned… I wish I could send a piece of tapestry from the Gobelins, or a picture from the Palais Royal, instead of a letter.
He went to the theatre, became fluent in French, socialised, went sight-seeing, shopped, sending his mother two black velvet hoods and “a vestale for your neck, such as the Queen wears”, had his teeth filled, and observed the French: in the streets, in the salons, at the court of Versailles. On January 9th, 1753, he was presented to Louis XV, the Queen, the Dauphin, and, finally, the King’s mistress, the beautiful and fearless Jeanne Antoinette Poussin, Marquise de Pompadour. Philosopher, diplomat, political savant and patron of the arts, she had many enemies, but the intense young English soldier with whom she chatted in her boudoir, where she entertained visitors but offered a chair only to her royal lover, was not one of them. He recalled afterwards her intelligence, her wit and her courtesy, and that she was curling her hair during their conversation.
But despite the glitter and grace, life in Paris began to pall. He still hoped to be allowed to travel, perhaps to visit the French army in its summer encampment, but his request was denied and another officer was granted the privilege. And then, peremptorily, he was ordered back to his regiment. He returned to England, wretchedly seasick as usual, and rejoined the 20th in Glasgow.
He found it in dire straits.
Officers ruined, impoverished, desperate, and without hopes of preferment; the widow of our late Major and her daughter in tears; an ensign struck speechless with the palsy and another that falls down in the most violent convulsions. Some of our people spit blood, and others are begging to sell before they are quite undone, and my friend Ben will probably be in jail in a fortnight… The ladies are cold to everything but a bagpipe⸺ I wrong them. There is not one that does not melt at the sound of an estate. We march out of this dark and dismal country in August.
He was beginning to wish he had stayed in Paris.
But it was a soldier’s life and he was a soldier’s soldier, committed to service. Younger officers came and went on their own career trajectories: he guided them, advised them, trained them, disciplined them, and, conscious of an increasing abruptness and austerity in himself, encouraged them to mingle in society, and go to balls and assemblies.
It softens their manners and makes ʼem civil; and commonly I go along with them, to see how they conduct themselves. I am only afraid they shall fall in love and marry. Whenever I perceive the symptoms or anybody else makes the discovery, we fall upon the delinquent without mercy until he grows out of conceit with his new passion… My experience in these matters helps me to find out my neighbour’s weakness, and furnishes me with arms to oppose his folly.
Sometimes he reflected darkly on the future and was not reassured.
I am eight-and-twenty years old, a lieutenant-colonel of foot, and I cannot say I am master of fifty pounds.
His requests for promotion had been denied. He was too young for higher rank, they said, although he had seen other officers promoted, not on the basis of merit but out of political expediency. He felt old, jaded, bitter, forgotten.
He prayed for war, war came.
The amphibious assault on Rochefort on the Charente estuary in September of 1757 was a million-pound fiasco involving sixteen ships-of-the-line, frigates, fire-ships and bomb ketches, as well as ten-line regiments, fifty horse, and gunners, a total of about 10,000 men. Intelligence had suggested the town contained a large arsenal of arms and ammunition and was only lightly guarded, and it was thought an ideal diversion to aid Hanover and Prussia, where a French army of 150,000 was preparing to attack.
Only two officers emerged from the resulting debacle with their reputations intact: Captain the Honourable Richard Howe of the 74-gun former French prize H.M.S. Magnanime, who bombarded into submission the fortifications on the Île d’Aix that commanded the approaches to Rochefort and La Rochelle; and the army’s quartermaster-general, James Wolfe, who after reconnoitring the area by boat had recognised the strategic necessity and recommended the fort be destroyed.
Wolfe had been plucked from the obscurity of fly-fishing, shooting game birds without a licence, suppressing a riot by local weavers striking for higher pay, and other diversions of garrison life in Gloucestershire, on the recommendation of Sir John Mordaunt. General after general had declined the honour of leading the expedition, or had been vetoed by the King: the secretary of state, William Pitt, had eventually offered Mordaunt command. Wolfe was told nothing of the destination, nor were any other senior officers until they had been at sea for a week.
The troops had mustered on the Isle of Wight and waited for the transports. And waited. The weather turned against them and delayed embarkation. It was a bad beginning. Things got worse.
Mordaunt had been a brave and competent soldier, but he was sixty now, and ailing, and he had lost his nerve. He vacillated, unable to decide where or when or how to attack, issuing and countermanding orders, infuriating Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hawke, who threatened to withdraw his ships if Mordaunt could not stop procrastinating; and, as Wolfe wrote to his father,
We lost the lucky moment in war, and were not able to recover it. It had been conducted so ill that I was ashamed to have been of the party. The public could not do better than dismiss six or eight of us from the service. No zeal, no ardour, no care or concern for the good and honour of the country.
After a court of inquiry in November, Mordaunt was brought before a court-martial on December 14th, charged with disobeying his orders. Given the fate of Vice-Admiral the Honourable John Byng, who had been executed by firing squad on the quarterdeck of H.M.S. Monarch in Portsmouth harbour in March for failing to defend Minorca, his acquittal was considered lenient. He was allowed to retire from the service.
Wolfe, who had given evidence at the court of inquiry and at Mordaunt’s court-martial, had refrained from any public condemnation of him, but he plunged into depression and decided to resign his commission as quartermaster-general for Ireland, an office he had held only in name, hiding at his parents’ new house in Blackheath and writing to his mother, who had gone to Bath:
I can’t part with my other employment because I have nothing else to trust to, nor do I think it consistent with honour to sneak off in the middle of a war.
To Rickson, he vented his shame and humiliation.
I own to you that there never was people collected together so unfit for the business… dilatory, ignorant, irresolute, and some grains of a very unmanly quality, and very unsoldierlike or unsailor-like.
And then, perhaps considering the repercussions if his comments as a prominent member of the expedition should become more widely known:
I have already been too imprudent; I have said too much. Therefore report nothing out of my letter, nor name my name as author of any one thing.
He was thirty years old, angry, frustrated, alone. The future was a void.
We look forward to you joining us for the final two episodes next Tuesdays and Thursday.
It’s always lovely to welcome back guests to All Things Georgian, and one such guest is the delightful, Kim Reeman, who has written two previous articles for us. Today she has quite a story to share about the life of General James Wolfe and as such it will appear in four parts, over the next couple of weeks – so please do keep an eye out for the future posts to find out more. With that I will hand over to Kim to tell you more:
Canada est un pays couvert de neiges et de glaces huit mois de l’année,
habité par des barbares, des ours et des castors…. Quelques arpents de neige.
VOLTAIRE (FRANÇOIS-MARIE AROUET), 1758
There was no snow on this September morning, only a vast, living silence under the stars: the concerted creak and dip of oars, the uneasy shuffle of boots on bottom boards, a muffled cough as men, packed closely together, gripped their weapons, stared into the blackness and listened, waiting for whatever would come. The night was calm, the current strong: the tide, in this river of seven hundred miles, ebbing rapidly. From the unseen shore, after the heat of the day, a cool wind brought the scent of the pines.
The quarter moon had risen at 10 p.m., laying a faint, camouflaging track on the water to confuse the eye, and the boats slipped through the shadows. They had begun to embark at about 9 p.m., the light infantry and the Royal Americans first, followed by other regiments in order of seniority, dropping away from the Sutherland at midnight at the hoisting of the signal: two lanterns, one above the other, in her maintopmast shrouds. At 1:35 a.m. the tide began to flow, and at 2 the signal to proceed was given. The commander-in-chief, in Sutherland’s barge, took the lead.
He sat on the thwart, his six-foot frame uncomfortably cramped, maintaining the silence he had ordered all men to observe in the boats, with a fusil slung across his back, a cartridge pouch with seventy rounds of ammunition suspended from his belt, and a bayonet at his left hip. Recent, debilitating illness had drained him, physically and spiritually, and he was haunted by the possibility of failure. He had seen the fates of generals and admirals arraigned for dereliction of duty: court-martial, professional oblivion, dishonour, or worse. He had held his first commission at the age of fourteen: he was now thirty-two, and half his life, spent in continuous service, had been merely the prelude to this rendezvous with destiny.
He focused his mind on a stanza of Gray’s Elegy, a copy of which his fiancée had given him before he had left Portsmouth, and which he had annotated the previous evening in his cabin aboard Sutherland.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Await alike th’ inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
The barge nudged into the shallows, and, adrenaline coursing through his blood, he was up, into the water, splashing ashore. The inevitable hour had come.
Time had matched him with this hour: time and a crucible of war, which had taken an affectionate child in an ensign’s uniform writing letters to his “dearest Mamma” and by its alchemy produced a man, impetuous, hot-tempered, over-sensitive, disciplined, meticulous, and intolerant. Devoted to his family and friends, he had a capacity for love that would never be truly fulfilled, and an intense vulnerability: he never forgot a kindness, and very seldom forgave an injury. Trust once lost was never given by him again, a quality he recognized in himself, writing in a moment of excoriating self-analysis, “I have that cursed disposition of mind, that when once I know people have entertained a very ill opinion, I imagine they never change. From whence one passes easily to an indifference about them, and then to dislike… There lurks a hidden poison in the heart that is difficult to root out.”
Aware of his own military genius, he had felt for most of his life ignored, undervalued, denigrated, and often openly insulted by subordinates and superiors alike.
Initially shy with women, although he gained grace and confidence, he remained conscious of his singular physical characteristics: he was six feet three inches tall and very thin, with flame-red hair, long, nervous, restless fingers, pale skin that blushed furiously with any access of emotion, and his mother’s unfortunate profile, which would be so cruelly lampooned at Quebec and immortalized in a host of bad portraits and tasteless souvenirs at the apogee of his posthumous fame.
Only the painting attributed to Joseph Highmore was considered a good likeness by his family until George Townshend, one of Wolfe’s combative trio of brigadiers at Quebec, produced from life, without a trace of his signature malice, the iconic and endearing watercolour of his mercurial commander that captures the elusive qualities of his face: the piercing, heavily lidded blue eyes, the patient, somewhat quizzical expression, the dimpled chin, and an essential gentleness about the mouth, a gentleness for which, in life, Wolfe was known, and in death remembered.
Time. There had never been enough time: enough peace, enough warmth, enough comfort, enough nourishment, enough freedom from physical and mental stress. No time to study, to travel, to observe, to discover, as a shy and awkward lover, the mysteries and delicacies of lovemaking; no time to marry, to father the children he longed for, to walk, as he once wrote wistfully to his own father, in his garden and sample his own sun-warmed figs. There had only been war.
And now, at the foot of these cliffs, time stopped. Two hundred and fifty feet above, men were climbing, cursing, dislodging soil and stones, hauling weapons: those who had reached the top and dispatched the French sentries were silhouetted against the stars. The path, the metaphor for his life, awaited.
He drank briefly from an offered flask: water, not alcohol. He seldom drank spirits, although he had ordered an issue of rum for the men tonight, knowing it would hearten them. Chronic dehydration had led to infections of the bladder and urethra which had felled him repeatedly, with fever and bloody urine and excruciating pain, most recently in the previous week, and he was still desperately ill, despite his efforts to conceal it. He began to climb.
James Wolfe was born on January 2, 1727, at Westerham, Kent, the first surviving child of Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Wolfe, a career soldier of Irish descent who had served with Marlborough, and his much younger wife Henrietta Thompson Wolfe, an imperious beauty who claimed descent through her Yorkshire family, the Tindals of Brotherton, from Edward III and Shakespeare’s ‘Hotspur’, Henry Percy.
Throughout his life, James’s relations with his English and Irish relatives, particularly his uncle Major Walter Wolfe, who had retired to Dublin, and his cousins, the Goldsmiths of Limerick, remained fond and close.
Almost exactly a year after James’s birth a paler, frailer sibling arrived and was christened Edward after his father. Where ‘Jemmy’ led, Ned would follow, even through waist-deep snow in the brutal winter of 1743 as a fifteen-year-old ensign in Colonel Scipio Duroure’s 12th Regiment of Foot, sharing a horse with the sixteen-year-old James, also an ensign but already discharging the duties of adjutant. After a particularly arduous march, James wrote to his father from Aschaffenburg, near Frankfurt:
The men almost starved. They nor their officers had little more than bread and water to live on, and that very scarce. The King is in a little palace in such a town as I believe he never lived in before. It was ruined by the Hanoverians, and everything almost that was in it was carried off by them sometime before he came. They and our men now live by marauding… The French are burning all the villages on the other side of the Mayne, and we ravaging the country on this side.
And, as the army was as much a family as the Royal Navy, and friends and former brothers-in-arms kept in as close touch as was possible, he added:
Brigadier Huske inquires often if I have heard from you lately, and desires his compliments to you. He is extremely kind to me, and I am most obliged to him. He has desired his brigade-major Mr Blakeney, who is a very good man, to instruct me all he can. My brother intends writing very soon. We both join in love and duty to you and my mother.
Meanwhile, Ned was reporting busily: “They say there are many wolves and wild boars in the woods, but I never saw any yet, neither do I desire.”
There was something far more lethal in the woods, dogging the footsteps of the allied forces of Britain, Hanover and Austria under the personal command of George II: a French army of 70,000 commanded by the Duc de Noailles, one of the most formidable soldiers of his time. Inexplicably, Noailles ceded command of a large contingent of infantry, artillery and cavalry to his less capable nephew, the Duc de Grammont, who abandoned an unassailable position to attack the allies on open ground near the village of Dettingen, in what is now Bavaria, on June 27th, 1743.
The Wolfe boys, receiving this baptism of fire, saw the mathematical precision of drill disintegrate into the chaos of hand-to-hand fighting: Duroure’s, in the front line, suffered the highest casualties of any allied regiment engaged that day. The colonel’s horse was shot from under him, as was James Wolfe’s; the King was thrown, and led the Hanoverians on foot; his son William, Duke of Cumberland, who would figure prominently in James’s life, took a musket ball through the calf, and Wolfe wrote in a graphic dispatch to his father after being, with Ned, under artillery fire for nearly three hours and then in close action for more than two, “I sometimes thought I had lost poor Ned when I saw arms, legs, and heads beat off close by him. He is called ‘the Old Soldier’ now, and very deservedly.”
Dettingen, with 750 British, Hanoverians and Austrians killed and 1,600 wounded, and between 2,000 and 4,000 French dead, was considered a victory. A British cavalryman writing home of the “dead and mangled bodies, limbs, wounded men” and terribly injured horses he saw on the battlefield in the rain the following morning, revealed that “this sight shocked my very soul.”
The armies regrouped, reinforced, and did not engage again that year.
On June 3rd, 1744, James was promoted to captain in the 4th Regiment of Foot, the King’s Own, also known as Barrell’s after its nominal colonel, Lieutenant-General John Barrell: its lieutenant-colonel in the field was Robert Rich, who welcomed the newly blooded young captain and would become a friend and champion. Ned, now a lieutenant, remained with the 12th. The brothers saw each other occasionally and corresponded as regularly as circumstances permitted, but a letter from the 12th’s surgeon expressing concern over Ned’s health never reached James, and he was in winter quarters in Ghent and unaware of the gravity of the situation when Ned died in October, probably of tuberculosis. He wrote to his parents on the 29th of that month, overcome with grief and self-recrimination.
“It gives me many uneasy hours when I reflect on the possibility there was of my being with him sometime before he died. There was no part of his life that makes him dearer to me than that where you have often mentioned⸺ he pined after me… He lived and died as a son of you two should, which, I think, is saying all I can.”
In May of 1745, at Fontenoy, Ned’s old regiment engaged once more in bloody combat with the French. James, who was kept in reserve with the 4th and never ordered out of Ghent, wrote to his father after the allies’ ignominious defeat that Duroure’s “has suffered very much, 18 officers and 300 men killed and wounded. I believe this account will shock you not a little, but ʼtis surprising the number of officers of lower rank that are gone.”
Not for the first time, he contemplated the ephemerality of life and a future in which the only certainty was death. He was young but no longer youthful: his had become an older, darker soul, prone to depression, and driven by ambition and an awareness of the passing of time.
On June 22nd, 1745, general orders announced his appointment as “Brigade-Major to Pulteney’s Brigade.” He was eighteen years old.
The cliffs had been thought unscalable, except by Wolfe himself. The French had not, apparently, thought suspicious the spectacle of four senior British officers staring at the Anse au Foulon through telescopes from a vantage point on the opposite bank, when he had been explaining, yet again and more testily, what the other three seemed unwilling or unable to understand. After a summer of feints and manoeuvres and skirmishes and infuriatingly unsuccessful forays, perhaps Montcalm had dismissed the episode of the telescopes as merely another caprice on the part of the British. Deserters, in traffic that flowed both ways across the St. Lawrence, had reported his response.
We need not suppose the enemy has wings.
He had placed his trust in the river and the country, and what time would do to both. These impudent invaders would be forced to withdraw soon, or be locked in by the Canadian winter.
The heat was still intense in the afternoons, but the quality of the light had changed. Time, in the turning of a leaf, in the coolness before dawn… time in the flood of the river, the flood of years. Time was running out.
The stars were veiled with cloud now, and rain intensified the fragrance of the pines.
Culloden cast its long shadow over the rest of Wolfe’s life, although, as aide-de-camp to the foul-mouthed old cavalryman Lieutenant-General Henry ‘Hangman’ Hawley, he was not fighting with his regiment, Barrell’s, the King’s Own, on the morning of April 16th, 1746. He remained on the right of the line with Cobham’s Dragoons and Kingston’s Light Horse, which Hawley did not order into action until the entire right wing of the rebel army had thrown itself on Barrell’s.
He did not see, except at a distance and through the smoke, Barrell’s break under the impact of the charge by the Stewarts of Appin and Atholl and the Camerons under Lochiel, and throw it back with bent and bloodied bayonets; did not see his friend, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Rich, fighting with inhuman courage beside the colours, receive six head wounds; did not see Rich’s left hand struck from his wrist and his right forearm almost severed by a Highland broadsword; did not see until afterwards Lord Robert Kerr, son of the Marquess of Lothian and captain of Barrell’s grenadiers, dead on the ground with his skull split from crown to collarbone. He did not, in all probability, feature in the apocryphal story that sometimes had the Duke of Cumberland, sometimes, more characteristically, Hawley, pointing to a wounded Jacobite, identified as Charles Fraser of Inverallochy, and saying, “Wolfe, shoot me that rebel dog,” whereupon the indignant young major retorted, “My commission is at Your Highness’s disposal, but I can never consent to become an executioner.” Wolfe loathed insubordination and would certainly not offer it to his commander-in-chief, and it is highly unlikely, despite his personal hatred of Hawley, that he would have behaved with insolence toward him. He remained on good terms with Cumberland and was more than once recommended for promotion by him until the Duke’s own spectacular fall from grace following his surrender of Hanover in 1757.
But for Wolfe, the dark memories remained, and an appreciation of the raw courage of the Scots. He had seen that ferocity unleashed. He could not know that within thirteen years, on a sun-swept plateau on a September morning, it would be his to command.
Part 2 of this story will be on Thursday.
General James Wolfe (1727–1759), When a Boy. Benjamin West (1738–1820). Government Art Collection
I am delighted to welcome back a guest who writes under the pen name of Erato. Her article last time was about her then latest book – The Cut of the Clothes: A Story of Prinny and Beau Brummell.
Today she is here to talk about her new book which has just been released – Slick Filth: A Story of Robert Walpole and Henry Giffard.
I remember the first time I saw G.W. Pabst’s 1931 film of The Threepenny Opera, I was very struck by what a wicked man Mack the Knife was and how there was so little attempt to give him any really favourable qualities. The popular versions of Threepenny’s famous Mack the Knife tune, sung by Sinatra and his ilk, have lyrics that omit and soften many of his worst crimes, and with their upbeat, jazzy rhythms (a bit different from Brecht’s original) make Macheath sound like a pretty swell guy.
It’s reasonably well known that The Threepenny Opera was adapted from John Gay’s 18th century musical The Beggar’s Opera, but it takes a little more work to discover that Macheath was conceived as a rather blatant caricature of the first Englishman to win the title of Prime Minister — Robert Walpole.
With the understanding that the show’s star, criminal Macheath, was created to poke fun at a politician, his lack of good qualities becomes far less surprising. John Gay’s 1728 musical was a huge hit, spawning a veritable fad of stage plays which poked fun at politicians. Audiences loved them — but the politicians, not so much. Robert Walpole bribed a theatre manager to prevent the staging of Gay’s sequel to Beggar’s Opera, entitled Macheath Turned Pirate; but this action only turned the printed script for the play into a bestseller.
Whether it was due to some personal vendetta against the theatre for his depiction as Macheath the Highwayman, or whether it was over a real concern that the political satires had gotten out of hand, Robert Walpole soon set into motion a bill which would strengthen the power of politicians to censor the British stage. In order to gain support for his proposed regulations, he read before Parliament some passages from an extremely offensive play called The Golden Rump, which was purportedly intended to be staged in London.
No script for The Golden Rump survives, and there is doubt amongst scholars as to whether or not a complete script for such a show ever really existed; for, it seems that everybody who has ever looked into the matter has come to the conclusion that Robert Walpole created the alleged script himself.
By reading passages from a play so offensive that nobody could possibly agree that it should have been staged, Walpole was able to convince both the Commons and Lords of a need to enact stricter censorship of stage shows. The result of this Licensing Act was that the Lord Chamberlain had to approve the scripts for all new plays before they could be performed; and this remained law until the 1960s. The dearth of good English stage plays from the 18th century has been directly attributed to Walpole and his Licensing Act; for not only was there a risk that a show could be suppressed for any reason at all, but also the expense of submitting new scripts to the Lord Chamberlain limited the playhouses’ interest in even trying new shows. Revivals of Shakespeare, Otway and Dryden became the norm for much of the 18th century’s theatrical fare.
An effort to re imagine the script has been composed in my new book Slick Filth; inspiration was taken from genuine offensive plays of the past such as a Henry Fielding’s Pasquin (1736) and the unsurprisingly anonymous Sodom; or, the Quintessence of Debauchery (1689). The effect is rather like South Park, only with long-Ss and greater use of the word “swive.”
A glimpse of my play:
And for those who don’t relish the idea of reading a mere play script, unstageable as it is, Slick Filth also contains a fictionalised account of Walpole’s creation of the script, as told by his unwilling accomplice, Henry Giffard of Goodman’s Fields.
Today’s blog is a promotional one for ‘The Early Dance Circle Annual Lecture, 2020’ which will take place on
Friday 28 February 2020 at 7.15 p.m.
Swedenborg Hall, Swedenborg House,
20 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH
Last year their guest speaker was one of our fellow Pen and Sword,author, Mike Rendell and this year’s speaker will be the dancer, dance Historian and archivist at New College, Oxford, Jennifer Thorp.
The high seas of British publishing have always been choppy. Of course, publishing piracy is not a thing of the past by any means. Last March, Katy Guest wrote about the modern problem in The Guardian, reporting the boast, ‘I can get any novel I want in 30 seconds.’ It’s estimated that 17% of e-books are consumed illegally. Katy found the recurring claim that there was nothing wrong in the practice because, “Reading an author’s work is a greater compliment than ignoring it.”
In 1706 English dancing-masters were introduced to the new concept (for London) of dances recorded in notation and manuals in English on how to read them. That year John Weaver, with the encouragement of two significant patrons, sold copies of his influential Orchesography and A Collection of Ball-Dances … by Mr Isaac through the Strand bookshop of Paul and Isaac Valliant. They did him an honest and successful job but inadvertently signalled to less scrupulous printers that there was money to be made in such publications, by fair means or foul. This talk looks at the ways in which some of the eighteenth-century dance materials that we cherish today came into being and survived – if they did?
The dance publishers that Jennifer Thorp will tell us about, like authors today, might stoutly disagree! Come along to the EDC Annual Lecture this year and hear more about the 18th century form of publishing piracy and its consequences. You’ll be very welcome!
For further information or to reserve your free place, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 8699 8519 . A suggested donation is £5.00.
We are thrilled as always, to welcome back Regan Walker, whose latest book in the Agents of the Crown series, ‘Rogue’s Holiday‘ has just been released and for which there are further details of how to obtain a copy at the end of her article. Today Regan is going to tell us more about Prinny’s Brighton, so, over to Regan:
When George, the Prince of Wales, reigned as the Prince Regent, beginning in 1811, and even after he became king in 1820, Brighton on the south coast of England was his favourite destination. It was fifty-four miles from London as the road winds, close enough to travel to in one day. The seaside resort provided all the pleasures of the Beau Monde without the discomforts of town. William Wilberforce, after a visit in 1815, dubbed the town “Piccadilly by the sea-side.”
Brighton loved the Prince Regent. Whatever criticisms he may have faced for his lifestyle, the Brighton newspapers celebrated his frequent visits and looked forward to welcoming all those who flocked the seaside town to enjoy what became “the Brighton Season”.
In 1822, the Brighton Gazette reported:
Gay and fashionable equipages are daily pouring into the town, and every thing gives promise of a brilliant and prosperous winter season. Many large houses on the Cliffs, Marine Parade, etc. have been engaged for Noblemen within the last fortnight… Who indeed would not fly the dirt and smoke of the crowded metropolis for a place like Brighton, where he may at once enjoy the pure and healthful breezes of the ocean, and a salubrious climate, without being subject to the dreary ennui of a country life?
For the Prince, Brighton became a fantasy escape from his narrow-minded and staid parents who failed to appreciate their son and heir. More than anyone, they were responsible for making Prinny the Grand Corinthian. Thus, it should have come as no surprise that the Prince would build a palace that would be a mogul’s dream where he could entertain his eclectic bevy of friends in grand fashion, including of course, the characters in my story.
The Marine Parade that ran along the shore and the Old Steyne that fronted the Pavilion were wide paths available for a morning or afternoon stroll. But one could certainly keep busy in Brighton. Visitors were offered an endless array of balls, concerts, soirees, private dinners, theatrical events, interspersed with riding, card games and other entertainments.
The Pavilion’s designer was architect John Nash who built it in three stages until it became the palace we think of today with its many domes and minarets. There, Prinny reigned as the beneficent patron of the foremost artists and literary men of his age and entertained his diverse friends in the rooms decorated in chinoiserie style to look like the home of a Chinese emperor who lived in a kingdom of flowers and perpetual spring. Rooms, such as the Music Room, pictured above, which Prinny kept overheated with candles and gas lamps.
As the town grew, entertainments were added to rival those of London. Hotels, shops, theatres and a racecourse stood at ready. Castle Square next to the Pavilion and half of North Street were the Bond Street of Brighton where one could buy cloth, shoes, cigars, porcelain and many other things. North Street was home to sixty shops by 1820, the year of my story. By 1808, Brighton also had a department store, Hanningtons, on North Street. Added to that, there were dozens of taverns and hotels, that featured balls and card games. All of the taverns, shops, shopkeepers and hotels mentioned in Rogue’s Holiday existed at the time.
The Castle Inn adjacent to the Pavilion had an assembly room and a smaller room used as a tearoom. The Old Ship Inn, the oldest hotel in Brighton, also had a tearoom. And there was yet another tearoom erected in 1805 in the gardens of a public house a mile away in Preston.
Among Brighton’s many attractions was sea bathing, where one could be towed to the water in small boxes on wheels to swim, as my heroine does, in the altogether or, if you prefer, in one of the gowns provided. The men’s and women’s bathing areas were separated, of course. Dippers (for women) and bathers (for men) were employed to make sure the person’s head was dipped into the water. Dipping took place year round since the cold water was considered to be good for the health.
A wholesale fish market was held on the beach, supplied by 100 ships that sailed in the afternoon or evening and returned in the morning. Mackerel were in season from May to the end of July. Also, Sole, Brill, Turbot (common at all seasons) and Dories were in plentiful supply. As you will see in Rogue’s Holiday, while the fish market proceeded on shore, the boats hoisted their nets to dry.
Among Brighton’s most famous residents was Prinny’s Catholic wife, Maria Fitzherbert, a virtuous woman who took her marriage to Prince George seriously even if he did not. All of Brighton respected her. The king must have had her on his mind when he died in 1830, for he was buried wearing a locket containing her miniature.
A curious feature in the category of equipages was the fly carriage, a small covered carriage you might see around Brighton drawn by a man and an assistant. They were very convenient for navigating the narrow streets and had room for two. The ones that Prinny and his noble friends used for midnight excursions were dubbed “fly-by-nights”.
Prinny’s yacht, the HMY the Royal George, was commissioned in 1817 and could often be seen anchored off shore of Brighton when he was in residence. In my story, set in 1820, the king invites my characters to dine onboard. Among Prinny’s friends invited that evening were Lord Alvanley, Sir Bellingham and his wife Harriot, Sir John Lade and his wife Letty, and Elizabeth Conyngham, Marchioness Conyngham, the king’s mistress.
I have described the Royal George, in detail as my research provided. The great cabin really did have windows of plate glass, a skylight, gilded dark wood panelling, a Brussels carpet beneath a mahogany table and a pianoforte, among other accoutrements. As my hero, Sir Robert, said, the king liked to travel in style.
Even a spy needs a holiday…
Robert Powell’s work as a spy saves the Cabinet ministers from a gruesome death and wins him accolades from George IV. As a reward, the king grants him a baronetcy and a much-deserved holiday at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton where he thinks to indulge in brandy, cards, good horseflesh and women.
But when Muriel, Dowager Countess of Claremont, learns of Sir Robert’s intended destination, she begs a favour…to watch over an “errant child” who is the grandniece of her good friend living in the resort town. Little does Robbie know that Miss Chastity Reynolds is no child but a beautiful hoyden who is seemingly immune to his charms.
Chastity lives in the shadow of her mother and sisters, dark-haired beauties men admire. Her first Season was a failure but, as she will soon come into a family legacy, she has no need to wed. When she first encounters Sir Robert, she dubs him The Rogue, certain he indulges in a profligate lifestyle she wants no part in.
In Brighton, Robbie discovers he is being followed by friends of the conspirators who had planned to murder the Cabinet. Worse, they know the location of Chastity’s residence.
Below are all the ways you can find out about and purchase Regan’s books, so feel free to click on the highlighted links.
We are delighted to welcome a new guest to our blog, the lovely Kimberley Reeman. Kimberley Jordan Reeman was born in Toronto, graduating from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts (hons.) in English literature in 1976. She worked in Canadian radio and publishing before marrying the author Douglas Reeman in 1985, and until his death in 2017 was his editor, muse and literary partner, while pursuing her own career as a novelist.
She has always been a spinner of tales, telling stories before she could write, reading voraciously from childhood, and citing Shakespeare, Hardy, Winston Graham and the novels of Douglas Reeman and Alexander Kent as her most profound influences.
From Graham, who became a friend, she learned to write conversation, to eavesdrop as the characters spoke; from the seafaring novels of Reeman and Kent, which she read years before meeting the author, she came to understand the experience of men at war.
In this post Kimberley is going to write about ‘The Secret Woman’, so we’ll hand over to her:
He behaved like a brute… the most hardened creature I have ever met.
(Florence Nightingale to her sister Frances Parthenope Verney, 1855)
They met on a blazing October day at Scutari, now Üsküdar in Istanbul, at the height of the Crimean War: the ‘lady with the lamp’, grave, chaste, demure, and hailed as a pioneer of nursing and a heroine in Victorian England, and the short, slight, irascible, ageing lieutenant-colonel who had been appointed deputy inspector-general of hospitals for the British army in May of 1851, Dr. James Miranda Barry.
The antagonism was mutual. Florence has been described as intense and driven, and accused of racism for her icy attitude toward Mary Seacole, the mixed-race Jamaican ‘doctress’ who had applied to join Nightingale’s nurses and served, when rebuffed, as a sutler privately providing care, nourishment and accommodation to wounded soldiers on the supply road from Balaclava. But this was a clash of titans, neither of whom ever yielded to other authority, civil or military. Barry, so obsessed with hygiene that he would mutter, “Dirty beasts! Dirty beasts! Go and clean yourselves!” when inspecting the troops, was not impressed by Nightingale’s standards at Scutari and lectured her in the presence of her subordinates. Nightingale’s response was glacial, perhaps because she had been publicly castigated, and nobody who had ever been on the receiving end of one of Barry’s tirades ever forgot it; or perhaps it was a visceral reaction to what she saw or sensed, a sexual challenge that offended the devoutly Christian, Nightingale, who had no great affection for her own sex and preferred the company of powerful men.
This uniformed martinet in the scarlet coat with the heavy epaulettes and insignia of rank, and the sword and the spurs and the tightly trousered, booted legs, lecturing her from the saddle, was a woman.
She had been born Margaret Anne Bulkley in Cork, Ireland, about 1789, the daughter of Jeremiah Bulkley, grocer and inspector at the Weigh House, a position of responsibility not often granted to a Roman Catholic, and his wife Mary Anne, née Barry, sister of the renowned Irish painter James Barry, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
She was a pretty, spirited child with red-gold hair and blue-green eyes, and the characteristic Barry hooked nose and small, sweet mouth. Fastidious in everything from the choice of her clothing to the penning of letters on Mary Anne’s behalf to James Barry, asking for financial assistance as the family fortunes declined and Jeremiah was dismissed from the Weigh House in a British backlash against Irish Catholics after the French invasion of 1798, Margaret Anne Bulkley was indubitably female, as was confirmed after her death when those preparing her body for the undertakers found her to be “a most complete and perfect woman”.
There were also indications on that body that ‘James Barry’ had borne a child, and it is probable that Margaret was raped at about the age of thirteen, the most likely suspect being her dissolute uncle Redmond Barry, a sometime sailor who washed ashore occasionally, in and out of debt, debtors’ prisons, and the Royal Navy. What is known is that Mary Anne Bulkley and her daughter Margaret disappeared into the country for some time and returned with a baby girl, who was named Juliana for Mary Anne’s mother and who was, allegedly, Margaret’s sister. And while this child was never acknowledged, nor, eventually, was any other vestige of her former life, ‘James Barry’ remained notably fond of, and affectionate toward, children and small animals, and was instinctively trusted by them, to the extent that in the Cape Colony where Barry subsequently spent many years, local children would fearlessly call him the kapok nooientjie, the “little kapok maiden”, not only for his delicate physical appearance but for the stuffing with which he padded his trousers and coats to simulate anatomical correctness. Barry would later use custom-made prosthetics, presumably supplied by London theatrical costumiers, to achieve the same effect.
The anticipated financial aid never materialised from the painter James Barry, and mother and daughter made yet another pilgrimage from Cork to London to claim a share of his estate when Barry died intestate in February of 1806.
Little money was forthcoming, but Barry’s friends and patrons, among them doctors, lawyers, the Earl of Buchan and the Venezuelan patriot and diplomat Sebastian Francisco de Miranda y Rodríguez de Espinosa, took a paternal interest in Margaret, mentored her, encouraged her passion for learning, and almost certainly suggested the risky charade that would determine the course of her life. It had been done before by Margaret, Countess of Mount Cashell, near Cork, a pupil of the radical feminist Mary Wollstonecraft who had left her titled husband, taken a lover more kindly disposed toward the emancipation of women, and as a six-foot, muscular female in male clothing had attended medical lectures in the university town of Jena in Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. A Cork girl herself, and one who had once written to her brother, “Were I not a girl, I would be a soldier,” Margaret Bulkley must have been intrigued by the story.
General Miranda had a vision of a republican Venezuela where men and women would be equal. Margaret could accompany him there and practise medicine openly.
On Thursday, November 30th, 1809, Margaret Anne Bulkley disappeared, and a young ‘nephew’ and namesake of the painter James Barry took ship for Edinburgh, accompanied by his ‘aunt’ Mary Anne. He applied to and was accepted by the university, and joined hundreds of other male medical students. Three years later, after countless lectures and dissections and courses in anatomy, pathology, military surgery, medical botany and, particularly, midwifery, and oral and written examinations in Latin, ‘James Barry’ was awarded his degree.
For Margaret Anne Bulkley, now a qualified physician, the dream of re-assuming her female identity and joining General Miranda in Venezuela was abruptly and hideously shattered.
As described by Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield in their compassionate and evocative biography, Dr. James Barry, A Woman Ahead of Her Time, Miranda
had returned with [Simon] Bolívar to Caracas, where he received a mixed reception… his idealism was at odds with Bolívar’s authoritarianism. Following a year of violent turmoil and political intrigue, he was betrayed by Bolívar. Accused of treason, Miranda was handed over to the Spanish royalists and taken back to Spain, where he was thrown into a dungeon in the Arsenal de la Carraca in Cadíz. He never saw freedom again.
There would be no Venezuelan dawn for Margaret Bulkley.
For Dr. James Miranda Barry there were London dawns at St. Thomas’s hospital, following the great surgeons on their rounds, observing the distressing lack of hygiene on the wards, and learning, always learning. But money remained a problem, and in June of 1813 Barry presented herself to the army medical board and applied to be accepted as a surgeon, giving her age as eighteen (she was about twenty-four). Considered a prodigy but certainly not a woman, she passed the examinations required by the Royal College of Surgeons and was commissioned as assistant staff surgeon in the British army on December 7th, 1815. An attractive, androgynous and unusually youthful figure in plain single-breasted scarlet coatee without epaulettes, as befitted an assistant surgeon, she sailed for the Cape Colony in 1816; and, having obsessively guarded her privacy throughout the long sea passage from England, set her booted feet with their two-inch heels on the soil of Africa in October.
The years in Cape Town would be the most fulfilling and challenging of her life. With the widowed governor of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset, a former army officer and younger brother of the sixth Duke of Beaufort, she began a passionate and enduring relationship, possibly platonic, very probably sexual, although it is not known, nor is it appropriate that we should know as we have no proprietary right to Barry and her private life, how that sexuality was expressed. Certainly it was thought to be true when a placard was posted in Cape Town on Tuesday the first of June, 1824, claiming that a witness had seen “Lord Charles buggering Dr. Barry.”
Barry, walking along Heerengracht that morning, heard the story and behaved like any sensitive human being whose life had been rocked to its foundations. She sought refuge in a nearby shop and broke down in tears: of rage that something so precious had been publicly and libellously defiled; of fear that she and Charles would be arrested on charges of sodomy, a crime in the armed forces that was punishable by death; of exoneration, if investigated, by the disclosure of her sex, by which she would lose everything of significance, including her identity, her commission and her vocation.
There was a court of inquiry, but no conclusive evidence was produced, and the case was closed. The libellers were never identified, although Somerset and Barry, as well as citizens of Cape Town, offered substantial rewards. But the shadow and the shame never entirely dissipated, and Lord Charles Somerset was summoned to England in February of 1826, with his second wife and his family, to respond to criticisms of his administration.
Barry remained at the Cape, more argumentative, more confrontational and more intolerant than ever, vulnerable without her champion, Somerset, who had wielded his considerable influence to extricate her from every crisis into which her ferocious temper propelled her: challenging authority and incompetence and imagining insults and conspiracies until the Office of Colonial Medical Inspector was abolished. Shattered, she resigned her appointments and practised medicine privately, caring with a brisk compassion for the Cape garrison of 2,400 officers and men and their wives and children.
On Tuesday, June 25th, 1826, Barry was summoned in the middle of the night to attend Wilhelmina Munnik, in protracted labour and dangerously exhausted: she was unable to give birth naturally, and the only alternative, to save the living foetus, was to perform caesarean surgery, which almost invariably resulted in the death of the mother and, all too frequently, the child. Only in three recorded cases of caesarean section had both survived.
Barry, with Wilhelmina’s consent, and meticulous attention to hygiene and technique, that night performed the first caesarean surgery in the Cape Colony. Wilhelmina and her son survived, and the baby was christened James Barry Munnik, a name that would be handed down through generations of the Munnik family, in tribute to the surgeon who had delivered him.
In August of 1829 Barry, now a full staff surgeon in Mauritius, received devastating news. Charles Somerset, some twenty-two years Barry’s senior and suffering from the complications of heart failure, was reported to be dying. Barry, characteristically, committed one of the flagrant breaches of discipline for which she had become notorious and abandoned her post without permission.
She reached England on Saturday, December 12. Somerset was still alive, although very frail, and Barry, who had saved his life years before, nursing him with tenderness and dedication through a near-fatal attack of typhus with dysentery, undertook his care. Somerset seemed to rally, and then died on Sunday, February 20, 1831, with his wife, Lady Mary, his daughter Georgiana, and his beloved Barry at his bedside.
For Barry without her patron, “my more than father⸺ my almost only friend”, the aftermath and the years that followed were a blurred succession of postings, to St. Helena, Jamaica, Trinidad where she fell ill with malaria and was discovered sweating and delirious in bed by two medical subordinates who examined her and saw indisputable evidence of her sex, and maintained their silence; to Malta and a cholera epidemic; to Corfu; to the hostile meeting with Florence Nightingale at Scutari; and eventually to Montreal, where one officer was overheard to remark, seeing her for the first time, “You’d have to be mad to take that for a man.”
As intransigent as ever and suffering frequent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia, she reached the pinnacle of her career and fell abruptly and catastrophically from it while pursuing personal vendettas.
She had always been defensive and impulsive: at the Cape in her youth she had struck an officer across the face with her riding crop when he had said, “By the Powers! You look more like a woman than a man!” And she had fired a pistol with deadly intent in a duel when another officer had challenged her after some imagined slight and been shot herself, a wound she had dealt with in private. But this time Barry had gone too far, expressing her volatile opinions to the Dean of Montreal, the bishop and the archdeacon, as well as other members of the clergy, and “assailing them with violence and insulting conduct”.
Tolerance of her increasing eccentricity had reached its limit. She was recalled to London and faced a medical board comprised not of the director-general and senior officers to which her rank, the equivalent of a brigadier-general, entitled her, but three
junior surgeons who were perfect strangers to me and to my peculiar habits…. they not unnaturally and somewhat hastily jumped to the conclusion that I was in a bad state of health.
The board’s decision was also a foregone conclusion. James Miranda Barry, now officially sixty years of age and in reality several years older, was relieved of her North American command and reduced to half-pay.
There was no appeal.
She drifted, lost, no longer defined by the identity she had created and the persona she had inhabited for so many decades. She travelled to the Caribbean with her Jamaican servant John, a former soldier in the West Indian Regiment, chasing the ghosts of the past, considering adopting a child, visiting old friends, too many of whom were dying or infirm; becoming increasingly unwell herself; returning to London and more shadows and memories of the past.
In the early hours of Tuesday, July 25, 1865, in sweltering heat, Margaret Anne Bulkley, who for fifty-six years had lived as James Miranda Barry, died of cholera. Years before, in Trinidad, she had told a female friend⸺ and Barry had many female friends and was sparkling and gregarious in their company⸺ that in the event of her death her body was to be wrapped in the sheets in which she had died and buried unwashed and unexamined. That wish was either not known or ignored by those who came to lay out the corpse of Dr. James Barry before the arrival of the undertakers. The revelation of her sex to the press created an international sensation. Dickens gave the story a fictional spin in 1867. In 1919 the renowned actress Sybil Thorndike played Barry on the stage. There have been novels, biographies, broadcasts: a film is said to be in production.
Barry eludes definition, but nothing diminishes her uniqueness: as the first woman ever to hold the rank of general in the British army, as a pioneering surgeon, as a fearless human being sacrificing comfort, peace, stability, and emotional and physical intimacy in the pursuit of her destiny.
She had chosen her life. But the battered trunk which had accompanied her for so many years, when opened after her death by the solicitors in charge of settling her affairs, may speak of yearning and regret. When lifted, the lid’s leather lining was found to be covered with a collage of women’s fashion plates. Hats, gowns, hairstyles… a haunting affirmation of an irretrievable past, and an acknowledgement of the woman, long forgotten, who had once lived it.
Find out more below about Kimberley’s book Coronach, which is available to order from Amazon (UK) and Amazon (USA) and Amazon (Canada)
It is not necessary to look further than the history of Canada, and Toronto itself, for the genesis of Coronach: a vast country explored, settled, and governed by Scots, and a city, incorporated in 1834, whose first mayor was the gadfly journalist and political agitator William Lyon Mackenzie, a rebel in his own right, and the grandson of Highlanders who had fought in the `45. The Vietnam War, also, burned into the Canadian consciousness the issues of collateral damage and the morality of war; and from this emerged one character, a soldier with a conscience. In unravelling the complexity of his story, Coronach was born.
We are thrilled to welcome Australian author, Caroline Miley to our blog. Caroline is an art historian and author of literary historical novels set in the late Georgian era. Her debut novel, The Competition,(e-book version) won a Varuna Fellowship and a Fellowship of Australian Writers award, and was selected by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, for it 250th Anniversary celebrations.
Her latest novel, Artist on Campaign, (also e-book version) was inspired by wondering what would happen if a rake of an artist was obliged to put up with the British Army, and vice versa, so I’ll hand over to Caroline to tell you more.
“I had had no idea until this commission started how much time officers spent sitting down within doors with a pen in their hand”, the hero of Artist on Campaign says, as he consults the Town Major in Lisbon as to where he might find General Cradock.
I, too, had visualised officers as spending their life either on duty, largely on horseback, galloping from post to post or inspecting troops and ordering them about, or in their time off, gadding about town, drinking, carousing or making up to young ladies in drawing-rooms or at balls. But that was only half the story, especially when on campaign. Many officers did spend a great deal of time writing.
Being the army, as much time as possible was committed to writing, including daily and general orders and instructions. A staff officer such as the Adjutant-General or Quartermaster-General would in fact spend most of their life behind a desk, but even field officers had to write a great deal. Some even had their saddle bow built up into a tablet so they could write in the saddle. Much of the correspondence was on the dullest possible subjects, although giving insights into the exigencies of life:
“Gunner Farquhar has received no subsistence since the 31st March last year so that there is 15 months due to him viz., from 1st April 1809 to 30 June 1810… do me the favour to cause enquiry to be made of Mr Bell, Paymaster…”(1)
Many wrote up the day’s activities every night, and diaries, letters and memoirs as well as official documents. Some, such as Alexander Dickson, made extremely detailed accounts of architecture and the surroundings (2). Augustus Schaumann, a German Commissary, left one of the most vivid and evocative accounts in On the Road with Wellington (3), which includes something that many writers left out, i.e. their love affairs. And their leisure time is depicted in the amusing sketches and lampoons of army life by Thomas Rowlandson and his contemporaries.
Life on campaign hardly involved any fighting at all. During the Peninsular campaign of 1809, for instance, which lasted roughly from the 22nd of April when General Wellesley arrived in Lisbon to take command, up to the 3rd of September when the army arrived at Badajoz to recuperate, the British Army spent a half day re-capturing the city of Porto from the French.
The battle of Talavera de la Reina took three days, an unusually long and correspondingly bloody affair. So during a period of about four and a half months, only four days were spent in actual fighting. The remainder was spent on the march, with a few weeks in towns awaiting orders or assembling the troops.
An officer on campaign carried an enormous quantity of baggage and got an allowance for a bat horse to carry it and a servant from the ranks to look after him. During Sir John Moore’s campaign of 1808, he ordered that soldier-servants had to be returned to active duty, causing a great deal of grumbling from the officers. They certainly needed servants! They baggage included quantities of demountable furniture sturdily made of mahogany or oak with brass corners, sometimes sewn up in protective canvas. Then there were the contents of those chests – changes of clothes and their uniforms and hats, which occupied their own japanned tin boxes. And their writing-desks, shaving gear and other ‘necessaries’, cutlery, crockery, silver-mounted toilet sets, and edibles to eke out the army ration beef and biscuit. A servant’s work comprised that of valet, butler, cook, groom, laundryman and commissary – everything needed to keep their master clean, presentable, fed and comfortable.
Unlike soldiers, officers did not often bring their wives. Many, like Sir John Moore, considered that marriage was not suitable for a career military man. Those who were married, such as Wellington, mostly left their wives at home. If they did accompany them, they found the ladies a suitable residence among the English merchant community in safely-garrisoned Lisbon and settled them there for the duration, visiting when duty – or inclination – allowed.
In their spare time, officers sallied out into whatever town they were in. They attended balls, receptions and tertulias – dull affairs where the men and women stood about separately in corners and lemonade and cakes were served – given by the local people, drank a colossal quantity, and energetically prosecuted love affairs with local ladies.
Something that fascinated English officers in Portugal especially was the numerous convents full of nuns, who as staunch Protestants they pitied. Visiting nuns and making love to the younger and prettier through the grilles in the convents was a popular pastime, and some even persuaded the ladies to run away with them. This was so common that scholarly papers have been written about the numerous accounts of relations with nuns in British officers’ memoirs (4)
Drinking was endemic and a sign of manliness; a novice like Johnny Newcome had to learn to take his liquor. When the Duke of Wellington decided to commit himself to military life, he cut his consumption of alcohol in half – to only four bottles a day! Men drank port or brandy; claret was regarded as a drink for women. Drunkenness was only an issue if it prevented you from doing your work, for both officers or men, but extreme dissolution was frowned on as ungentlemanly.
On Sundays Divine Service would be held, probably in the open air, and the officers and men and their wives would assemble to hear it. At this period the service would be Matins, as the Sacrament was celebrated less frequently. Outdoor spare time pursuits were hunting in the neighbourhood, using dogs they had brought with them, and getting up horse races, as officers were proud of their horses and aimed for the fastest and showiest animals they could get, while betting was a favourite recreation. Being in a foreign country gave the more artistically inclined numerous opportunities to inspect the art, architecture and sights of the place, and collect trinkets and souvenirs. Some of the wealthier bought art works and antiquities and sent them home to add to their collections.
It may be surprising, in view of all the drinking, wenching and galloping about the country, but many officers were great readers. Popular books were Portuguese and Spanish grammars and dictionaries, books on the arts of war like A treatise containing the elementary part of fortification by John Muller (5) or The Officer’s Manual in the Field (6), and for light reading many chose Don Quixote (7), which they hoped would give them some insight into Spanish life and customs. Novels were not much favoured, but John Cleland’s Fanny Hill: or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (8), the prime pornographic work of the era, would have found a place in many officers’ libraries, together with a selection of erotic engravings to while away the more solitary hours, far from home.
The life of an officer on campaign was an odd miscellany. Courage and daring, sheer hard work, gentlemanly conduct and extreme physical hardship consorted with balls, dancing, gaiety, extravagant uniforms, love affairs, adventure and the tedium of life garrisoning a small town – and, in all this, a great deal of sitting at a desk with a pen in one’s hand.
Both of Caroline’s books are available via Amazon in either paperback or as e-books.
1) The Dickson Manuscripts Major-General Alexander Dickson (Royal Artillery) Ken Trotman Ltd, Cambridge, 1987, Vol 2 p. 225
3) On the Road with Wellington Augustus Schaumann Greenhill Books, London, 1999
4) Eg The Historical Journal Vol. 58 Issue 3 September 2015 pp. 733-756
“Habits of Seduction: Accounts of Portuguese Nuns in British Officers’ Peninsular War Memoirs Jeanne Hurl-Eamon Published online by Cambridge University Press;
The British Soldier in the Peninsular War: Encounters with Spain and Portugal 1808-1814 Gavin Daly Palgrave Macmillan London 2013 p. 165
5) A treatise containing the elementary part of fortification, regular and irregular John Muller J Nourse London 1756
6) The Officer’s Manual in the Field or a Series Of Military Plans Representing the Principal Operations of a Campaign T. Bensley London 1798
7) Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes 1615
8) Fanny Hill: or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure John Cleland London 1749
Soldiers of a campaign. Yale Center for British Art
We are delighted to welcome the author, Simon Edge, journalist, critic and novelist, to our blog to tell us more about the challenges he face when writing his latest novel, due to be released in a few days time, A Right Royal Face Off: A Georgian Entertainment featuring Thomas Gainsborough and Another Painter. So, with that, we’ll hand you over to Simon:
My first novel was based on the life of the Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. The historical parts were set in the 1870s and 1880s and it did not require a huge effort to think myself into his era. Surrounded as we are by Victoriana – in our culture, our civic infrastructure and the clutter of antique fairs or auction rooms – it’s easy to have an instinctive feel for how the Victorians ate, got around, furnished their homes and so on.
When I came to write a comic novel about Thomas Gainsborough and his rivalry with Sir Joshua Reynolds for the affections of the Royal Family, I found myself on less sure ground.
The historical events of A Right Royal Face-Off take place between 1777 and 1785, a century earlier than my previous period. Did I have any clear idea what forms of technology were new at that time, and what was about to be invented?
Was I confident of what well-to-do Londoners had for their dinner, or what time of day they ate it? Could I picture a Georgian hackney carriage, or a Georgian newspaper? No, no and no again.
These things are far from unknowable, of course. The works of Fielding, Swift, Sterne or Thackeray offer plentiful insights, and I wince as much as any other visitor to All Things Georgian at the anachronisms in a bad film adaptation of Jane Austen.
However, I didn’t have any instinctive sense of the difference between the 1770s and, say, the 1720s or the 1820s, so there was a high risk of howlers. Most readers don’t have that sense either, but if it’s worth doing historical fiction, it’s worth getting it right.
I live very close to Gainsborough’s House, the painter’s birthplace museum in Suffolk, so I could examine his painting table, the kind of paintbox he might have used, the sort of mannequin he would have employed for human figures in his early paintings (painfully apparent in portraits such as ‘Mr and Mrs Andrews’), and so on.
However, I needed basic guidance on ordinary living – the kind of stuff that novelists needs to get our characters out of bed in the morning and to take them through the day.
The trick, especially when you have a deadline, is to find a good guide who can help you cut corners, and mine was Fanny Burney. Her novel Evelina, about a country innocent introduced to London ways, was published in 1778 – spot on for my needs. Joy of joys, my edition came with detailed footnotes explaining hairdressing fashions, the dates of the London season and the difference between a sedan chair, a hackney-coach and a chariot.
Another boon was A Country Parson, the diary kept by the Norfolk vicar James Woodforde between 1759 and 1802. First published in the 1920s, its attraction for generations of readers is its homely detail, with meticulous records of meals taken, conversations with servants, journeys made, and so on. Woodforde lived a rural life, but he came from a similar class to Gainsborough and I found him invaluable every time I needed to give my characters a good feed. For example, when Gainsborough’s journalist friend Henry Bate-Dudley drops in for lunch, I provide him with a lobster, some mackerel, veal cutlets, a mutton leg with caper sauce, and a pig’s face, followed by a pineapple, oranges, a melon, damson tarts and a syllabub. If that gives you indigestion just thinking about it, take it up with Parson Woodforde.
A major issue for anyone writing historical fiction is language, particularly if the narrative is in the first person. You need to avoid anachronism – no shots in the arm or rollercoaster journeys, for example. That may sound obvious, but these things have a way of sneaking in. I once made myself unpopular with a writer friend by objecting to his description of buddleia (named after the 17th-century Reverend Buddle) in a novel about Roman Britain. Nobody loves a smartarse, but that doesn’t mean I was wrong.
Making characters sound authentic to their period isn’t just about avoiding modern slang – you need phrases of the time, too. I plunged into Fielding’s Tom Jones and made lists of idiomatic expressions: ‘he gave loose to mirth’, ‘she opined’ or ‘you are of the vulgar stamp’.
It took me back to my A-levels, trying to shoe-horn a list of idioms into French and German essays, and there is clearly a danger of trying too hard. Perhaps the best you can hope is that you fall into the right kind of linguistic groove. Total authenticity is not the aim.
One well-known literary novel from the 1980s, based on a brilliant idea, is virtually unreadable because it’s written in pedantically accurate 17th-century English. Better to suggest your period and not become inaccessible. A bestselling historical novelist friend insists this is all about word order: rearranging a sentence very slightly can create an impression of unfamiliarity, without forcing the reader out of their linguistic comfort zone.
I also found profanity very useful. We know from Gainsborough’s letters that he was a fantastically sweary person, so in my version he constantly calls the servants addlepates, whoresons and coxcombs. No doubt some of those expressions are ruder than others, just as we have our acceptable swear-words and our beyond-the-pale ones nowadays, but I used them interchangeably. It’s a comic novel, not a doctoral thesis on 18th century idiom.
I hope it entertains people, because that is the primary intention, but I’ll also be delighted if readers feel at home in my version of Georgian England. My bestselling historical novelist friend told me that my 18th century world was “lightly but effectively drawn”. I took that as the highest compliment.
Today we are thrilled to welcome to our blog, Sophie Guiny. Sophie is a Wedgwood collector and researcher. She is also the newsletter editor for the Wedgwood Society of Washington, D.C.
In May 1759, 260 years ago this month, 29-year old Josiah Wedgwood founded his own pottery works. Born in a family of potters in Burslem, Staffordshire, young Josiah was struck by smallpox and the resulting damage to his leg (which would eventually be amputated) left him unable to operate a potter’s wheel. He turned his attention to design and experimentation with new clays and glazes, improving on known techniques and creating new styles and ceramics bodies, including the now iconic jasperware, which Wedgwood perfected around 1775. In both pursuits, women played a critical role as patrons, artists and factory workers.
Josiah Wedgwood’s sense of innovation extended to marketing his wares in what was a crowded market. As the quality of his creamware (a type of ceramic made of pure white clay with a clear lead glaze) had garnered him royal orders, he petitioned Queen Charlotte for the right to use her name in selling his products. Starting in 1763, Wedgwood’s creamware was sold as Queen’s ware, and the Queen’s patronage became very visible on all advertising materials.
The Frog Service commissioned by Empress Catherine II of Russia in 1773 is a good case study of the role of women in Wedgwood’s business. First, as with the naming of Queen’s ware, Josiah Wedgwood aggressively courted royal and aristocratic female patrons, as they had the ability to influence the taste of other women, both in the aristocracy and in England’s burgeoning middle class. In a letter to his partner Thomas Bentley, Wedgwood muses, “Suppose you present the Duchess of Devonshire with a Set and beg leave to call them Devonshire Flowerpots.” This was never to be. But having Catherine the Great as a repeat customer (she had already ordered a service in 1768) was a marketing coup for which Wedgwood was prepared to incur financial losses.
The Frog Service comprised 952 pieces, and was to be decorated with a different view of England on each piece, an extremely ambitious task. The only repeating designs would be the border and the frog emblem, as the service was destined for a palace known as “Frog Marsh.” To realise the service, Wedgwood had to hire numerous skilled painters, which included a number of women: factory records show that at least half a dozen women were employed to paint the Frog Service, working on both the borders and the centre landscapes. The highest paid woman, a Mrs Wilcox, was paid eighteen shillings a week, which is just over half of what the highest-paid man earned (thirty-one shillings).
Wedgwood catered to a variety of tastes, and was always trying to introduce new styles. Many pieces were decorated with classical designs, inspired by antiquity, and modelled by such noted artists as John Flaxman Junior and George Stubbs. It is worth noting, however, that in the 1787 company catalogue, Wedgwood gives a place of pride to designs made by three women artists: Elizabeth, Lady Templetown, Lady Diana Beauclerk, and Miss Emma Crewe. All three were gifted amateur artists, and their designs were used exclusively to decorate the very fashionable jasperware.
Lady Templetown, often misspelled as “Templeton”, perhaps based on Josiah Wedgwood’s own frequent misspelling in his letters, was inspired by sentimentalist literature (such as Laurence Sterne’s novels) and traditional domestic activities. Born Elizabeth Boughton in 1747, she came from an aristocratic, if not particularly wealthy, family and married Clotworthy Upton in 1769. In 1776, in recognition for his services to the royal family, Upton was made Baron Templetown of Templetown, County Antrim in Ireland, and Elizabeth became the first Lady Templetown. Left a widow with three children in 1785, she managed her family’s Irish estates until her son’s coming of age, and retired to Rome where she died in 1823.
Her drawings caught the eye of Josiah Wedgwood who commissioned several designs from her starting in 1783. In a letter to Lady Templetown dated June 27, 1783, Josiah Wedgwood expresses: “a wish to be indulged in copying a few more such [figure] groups” in addition to what she had already lent him. She provided drawings or cut-outs in Indian paper of her designs, and William Hackwood, a sculptor employed by Wedgwood, modelled the actual reliefs to be applied on the jasperware. The etching below, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is based on one of Lady Templetown’s series of cut-outs on the theme of Domestic Employment. The jasperware version of this design (which is the mirror image of the cut-out) is on the teapot at the top of this post.
Emma Crewe’s designs were quite similar in inspiration to Lady Templetown’s, but much less is known about her life. She was born in 1741 and was the sister of John Crewe, a Member of Parliament and a staunch supporter of Whig party leader Charles James Fox. It is likely that these personal acquaintances played a role in Emma’s designs being used by Wedgwood, as Josiah Wedgwood was also a committed Whig.
Lady Diana Beauclerk’s designs were of a different style, although they too feature boys and cherubs at play. She was born Lady Diana Spencer in 1724 in one of Britain’s most prominent families: she was the great-granddaughter of the first Duke of Marlborough and grew up at Blenheim Palace. In 1757, she married Lord Bolingbroke, but her unhappy marriage was dissolved in 1768. That same year, she married Topham Beauclerk. The Beauclerks were part of the literary and artistic society of the time, counting among their inner circle such luminaries as Horace Walpole and Joshua Reynolds, and her life was the source of some gossip, which had been featured on this blog. Lady Diana Beauclerk died in 1808, having spent the last years of her life mostly blind and in much reduced circumstances (her husband Topham died in 1780).
According to Beatrice Erskine’s 1903 Lady Diana Beauclerk Her Life and Work, the first contact between Lady Diana Beauclerk and Josiah Wedgwood occurred in 1780 through their mutual friend Charles James Fox.
It is likely that Josiah Wedgwood chose to hire women artists and to publicise their work because he thought that it would appeal to the market, showing a softer side than scenes inspired by the Iliad, or portrait medallions of Roman emperors. Wedgwood has reproduced Domestic Employment and Bacchanalian Boys countless times since the eighteenth century, showing the long-lasting appeal of the more feminine designs.
However, Josiah Wedgwood was ahead of his time on many social and political issues, from his commitment to the anti-slavery movement to his position in favour of the independence of the American colonies, and was involved in the latest scientific research of his time through his membership in the Lunar Society. So it is not inappropriate to think that hiring women artists may have gone beyond commercial considerations and reflected Josiah Wedgwood’s progressive positions.
For more on this topic:
The Wedgwood Museum is part of the World of Wedgwood experience in Barlaston, Staffordshire
Both the British Museum and the V&A have large collections of Wedgwood, including works by women designers
The Frog Service is in the collections of the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg
The most comprehensive reference book is Robin Reilly, Wedgwood (two volumes), Macmillan & Co, 1989.
With the turn for the century, fashions began to change from the tight-laced bodiced dresses to a softer, flimsy and floating style, often made from lightweight fabrics. Presumably it was this change of style that required women to preserve their modesty, so, on that note we’re delighted to welcome a new guest to our blog, Sarah Waldock, who describes herself as ‘a Regency romance author with a morbid interest in drains and underwear’.
The post has come about following conversations we’ve had with Sarah Waldock, about one of our previous articles regarding whether Georgian women wore knickers or not! So we’ll hand over to her to tell you more.
This goes back to an assertion I made that yes, there were drawers worn by ladies in the Regency period as I had seen ads for them. Only when I uncovered the following ad, two words – invisible dresses – leaped out at me.
Radford’s Hosiery, 52 Cheapside
All manner of hosiery, gloves, flannels, drawers, ladies’ invisible dresses….
So going a bit further, I found
Mrs. Morris, once Mrs. Robertshaw, invisible dresses, petticoats, drawers and waist coats of real Spanish lamb’s wool, Welch Flannel Warehouse, 100 Oxford Street.
Plainly Mrs. Morris is a cut above Mr. Radford, being in Oxford Street where you pay three guineas a lungful to breathe [not that Cheapside was especially cheap; the name comes from the same source as Chapman, a peddler, from OE for goods for sale].
Digging around, I initially discover Mr. Radford advertising as far back as the 1st of January 1806 both the ‘Newly invented’ invisible petticoat and drawers, which is the earliest mention of drawers I had yet to find – at that point.
And then a bit of luck.
An unnamed seller advertises on Tuesday 17th September 1811;
New-invented invisible dresses [I hear you say, hang on, Radford and Morris had them in 1810; it’s the way of making them which is new invented] all in one, of a superior style for ladies and children … for ready money only, at no. 16 Poultry.
All in one, which is interesting; it suggests that invisible petticoats and waists have been combined. And in the same year, 21 December, 1811, Mr. Radford is back with his own take on this:
New-invented Brunswick invisible dresses that are such a preventative against colds and are patronised by the Royal Family.
There are also ads from him advertising them for ladies and children, reinforcing the idea that these are practical garments, no mere modesty pieces. These garments are for warmth to prevent the silly and fashionable chits in muslins from dying of pneumonia at winter balls.
I then looked up ‘Brunswick’ in the ‘Fairchild Dictionary of Textiles’. It gave me:
“A twilled wool and cotton fabric similar to cassimere”[Cassimere was a soft woollen twill cloth invented in Bradford and often combined with cotton, silk or mohair].
Now, Mr. Radford was also advertising cotton invisible petticoats in June and July of 1806, so maybe they were there as modesty pieces as well. I don’t have any more on that, nor on whether they were stockinet flesh coloured garments, like the drawers mentioned by Nicky Roberts in ‘Whores in History’ [Harper Collins 1992] to be worn under the notorious dampened muslins. It wasn’t mentioned. However I am seeing, I hope not spuriously, a connection between drawers and invisible gowns, which is an impression strengthened by a few more ads.
And this one from Mrs. Robertshaw [before she was Mrs. Morris] is the winner.
30th September 1806
SPANISH LAMBSWOOL INVISIBLE PETTICOATS
Mrs. Robertshaw begs leave to inform those ladies that found their invisible petticoats shrunk last winter that she has a kind so much improved that she will warrant them never to shrink even in the commonest wash, at the same time will be found equally as soft, pliant and warm. Everybody that has tried them allows them to be a much pleasanter article than ever before invented, being so very elastic[a word merely meaning at the time having some stretch or give] and of so beautiful a white, and, like all these comforts will add quite as little to size as her patent lambs’ wool so much approved of last winter. Likewise invisibles and stays all in one; well adapted to ladies that are confined; also under waist coats and drawers of the same description.
The ad goes on to invite mail order purchase, but what seems suggestive here is that the drawers are also for warmth as the implication is that they are also lambswool [and possibly either knitted or woven as a knit-weave like gents’ pantaloons]
The implication is also that this is not the earliest date.
So this is the ad I found, on 21st October 1805.
Spanish lamb’s wool invisible petticoats; Mrs. Robertshaw…. large assortment of her large assortment of real patent invisible petticoats which ladies will find soft, warm and pleasant at the same time adding little to the size.
Patent. A suggestive word, though I have a gut feeling that a lot of advertisers threw it around without applying for a patent. However, it does suggest that warm underclothes under skimpy top clothes was a recent response to the changes in fashion, having to be lightweight themselves rather than adding a quilted petticoat as one might do in earlier times.
The latest ad I found was in 1815, Friday 22nd December. Mrs. Morris is no longer reminding people that she was Mrs. Robertshaw before.
Ladies opera dresses, drawers, waistcoats, invisible petticoats – Mr. [sic] Morris manufacturer to the Royal Family respectfully informs those ladies that have patronised her patent invisible petticoat, opera under-dresses, drawers and waistcoats …. that she has manufactured an entire fresh and extensive assemblage.
I searched up to 1820 but could find no more ads. But after 1816, the year without a summer, the climate warmed up. Could it be that woolly longjohns and flannel petticoats disappeared for a lack of need for them?
As to earlier, in 1804 Mr. Radford was bad-mouthing those who sold inferior quality whilst proclaiming his own cheap but quality hosiery. He mentions flannels again. Was this a euphemism for flannel drawers? I haven’t tracked that down.
On 13th November 1804 he is advertising elastic cotton and other drawers in with his hosiery, gloves, lace mitts and lace sleeves. He is mentioned on 12th May 1803 as a hosier, and taking on the rent somewhere in an article too faded for me to read.
Mrs. Robertshaw however turns up in December 1804, or rather, Mr. W, Robertshaw does, at the same address, 100 Oxford Street, with a hosiery and pantaloon warehouse with fresh Spanish lambs wool and Angola waistcoats and drawers. Mrs. Robertshaw.
…begs the attention of the ladies to her patent Bath and elastic lambs wool petticoats and drawers, which ladies will find soft, warm and pleasant at the same time to add very little to size.
So, they are not yet invisible! Bath was a soft woollen cloth comparable to superfine; Bath suiting was often used for men’s jackets. It moulded nicely to the muscular form of the Corinthian.
Apart from the existence of W Robertshaw, Hosier, 100 Oxford Street in January 1804, the Robertshaws too disappear. Two families of Hosiers, whose brief, decade-long production of underwear excites the interest two hundred years later.
We are delighted to welcome The Early Dance Circle to the blog. On Friday 1st March they have their Annual Lecture, with this year’s guest speaker our good friend and fellow Pen and Sword author, Georgian Gentleman, Mike Rendell. So, to find out more about the event we hand over to Sharon, from the centre, to tell you more:
Join us on the dance floor of history – Learn how to dance Britain’s heritage or come to enjoy watching and help to pass it on.
If you love dance and want to safeguard and pass on its earliest forms in the UK and Europe, join us now. You can help us to secure a thriving future for early dance.
The Early Dance Circle (EDC) is a UK charity that aims to promote the enjoyment, performance and study of historical dance in the UK and beyond. Formed in 1984, it counts individuals and groups, both amateur and professional, among its members. We believe that a knowledge of earlier forms of dance helps enrich the cultural life of the UK, by accessing a heritage of international importance that belongs to us all, but has been until recently largely forgotten.
Our website, Early Dance Circle, offers information about classes & teachers, all our many events (including an Annual Early Dance Festival) our publications and lots of free resources about the 500 years of dance history in the UK and the rest of Europe. We have sponsored a free annual lecture since 1988.
Our Annual Lecture for 2019 will take place on
Friday 1st March 2019 at 7.15pm
Best foot forward – Georgian Style: Waltzing through History
Mike will look at dance in the Georgian era from a social history point of view – its importance, what it was like to go to Bath, to the Pantheon, to Almacks, what people wore, how they travelled, the role of the Master of Ceremonies, the growth of Masquerades – and finally some press reaction to the introduction of that grossly immoral and shocking dance, the waltz.
Mike is the custodian of a vast array of family papers dating back to the early 1700s. After he retired, he published The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman: The Life and Times of Richard Hall 1729-1801 (2011) about his Georgian ancestor. Currently working on no fewer than three books, Mike is known to 18th Century enthusiasts through his highly varied blogs on life in the Georgian period. He speaks regularly in the UK and abroad.
To reserve your free place, please book on Eventbrite (click here).
We are thrilled to welcome back the author of Regency Cheshire, Sue Wilkes who explores the county during the age of Jane Austen and Walter Scott; Regency Cheshire is now available on Kindle. Here’s a brief look at one of Cheshire’s most famous Regency-era architects.
Thomas Harrison (1744–1829), a Yorkshireman of humble origin, learnt his craft in Italy during the early 1770s.
Harrison’s works brought a restrained classicism to the city. His first major project was the Castle site, home to the civil and crown courts, county gaol, and an army garrison. Prison reformer John Howard, who visited in 1788, likened conditions in the cells (which housed debtors and felons) to the Black Hole of Calcutta.
In the summer of 1784, Cheshire magistrates, following a country-wide typhus epidemic the previous year, held a design competition for a new gaol within the castle. Thomas Harrison, now in his early forties, won the 50-guinea prize for his plans. Preliminary work began on site in 1788.
Harrison’s new gaol was laid out in the shape of a half-octagon fanning out from the Shire Hall. When the building was finally completed in 1801, conditions had greatly improved. The gaoler’s house looked out over an exercise yard; the cells, nine ft. by seven ft., were built in two-storey blocks along the inside of the perimeter wall. Robert Southey commented on how comfortably the jailor was housed:
The new jail is considered as a perfect model of prison architecture… The main objects attended to are, that the prisoners be kept apart from each other, and that the cells should always be open to inspection, and well ventilated so as to prevent infectious disorders… The structure of this particular prison is singularly curious, the cells being so constructed that the jailor from his dwelling-house can look into every one…The apartment from whence we were shown the interior of the prison was well, and even elegantly furnished; there were geraniums flowering upon stands, – a pianoforte, and music-books lying open – , and when we looked from the window we saw criminals with irons upon their legs, in solitary dungeons: – one of them, who was intently reading some devotional book, was, we were told, certainly to be executed at the next assizes…
Although Harrison’s design was very beautiful, it wasn’t necessarily secure; five prisoners escaped in the spring of 1802, and another five absconded in November 1807.
Harrison’s beautiful Propylaea Gateway, inspired by the Acropolis in Athens, was the crowning glory of the Castle complex. The gateway, with its Doric porticos and massy columns, is a high point of Greek Revival architecture in England.
Harrison’s new Shire Hall, with a grand façade of a Doric portico in fine ashlar stone, formed a harmonious whole with the prison buildings. Work continued on the Castle site for the rest of the decade; a new Armoury and Barracks (the present day Regimental Museum) for the garrison was added.
Harrison was also asked to revamp the city’s last surviving medieval gate, the Northgate. It housed the city gaol and had a dire reputation. This mouldering pile had a dreadful dungeon thirty feet below street level.
The Northgate was demolished and replaced by Harrison with a ’light, elegant structure of white stone.’ He also designed a new city gaol and House of Correction, built between 1806 and 1808, close to the medieval walls, but these buildings no longer survive.
Harrison was a very busy man in Chester during the Regency era. Thomas repaired the crumbling fabric of Chester Cathedral and refurbished the Exchange. His elegant Commercial News Room on Northgate St was a quiet haven for gentlemen wishing to peruse the daily newspapers. At Chester’s famous racecourse, the Roodee, he designed the first permanent grandstand to give genteel race-goers some protection from the weather. His skills were also greatly in demand for private homes.
Harrison’s works form a wonderful legacy for Cheshire architecture. His obituary in the Chester Chronicle (3 April 1829) called him a ‘highly distinguished artist,’ who ‘in his professional character, had few equals.’
We are always delighted to welcome back the lovely and very informative author Regan Walker. Today she’s going to tell us about what the island of Guernsey would have been like during the French Revolution. So, without further ado, we will hand you over to Regan.
My newest novel, A Fierce Wind, is set in England, France and the Isle of Guernsey during the French Revolution. It’s an exciting story of love in time of war when loyalties are torn and love is tested and when the boy Zoé Donet knew as a child turns out to be the man of her dreams. Since Guernsey has been of particular interest lately, I thought to give you an idea of what life might have been like there in the late 18th century.
With the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, French émigrés began flowing into England and other parts of Europe in successive waves that became a huge tide of emigration. (The number is believed to be one hundred and sixty thousand.) Some fled to Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, then called “the French Isles” even though they were dependencies of the British Crown. A considerable number of royalist and Catholic émigrés took refuge on Guernsey and a portion of those settled on the island, giving up hope of ever returning home.
Lying so close to France (less than twenty miles from Normandy), the islands not only provided sanctuary to the fleeing French, but they were used by the British as a base from which to monitor the movements of ships in and out of the Normandy’s ports. Hence, it was not surprising that Frederick West, the hero in A Fierce Wind, who lives on Guernsey, became a spy for the English while working with his French brother-in-law to ferry émigrés to London.
Freddie’s superior in London was Evan Nepean, Undersecretary of the Home Office and, after 1794, Undersecretary of War. One of his chief interests during the revolution was intelligence and Captain Philippe d’Auvergne on the Isle of Jersey was a primary contact. In addition to his duties as commander of the flotilla of small gunboats that protected the isles and administrator of the French émigrés, d’Auvergne was a British spymaster.
Although the Islands have been loyal to the English crown for eight hundred years, the native people would have been of Norman and Breton stock. In the late eighteenth century the majority of Guernsey’s population conversed in Guernsey-French (derived from the old Norman-French with Breton words tossed in), but in the capital, St Peter Port, they also would have had a working knowledge of both French and English.
During the Revolution, people might have been starving in Paris, but on Guernsey, they generally ate well. Good weather and good soil produced a rich bounty of fruits and vegetables. Figs and oranges grew on Guernsey. Healthy cows provided fine milk, butter and cheese, and most households kept a pig or two. Oysters, fish and lobsters abounded. Guernsey fishermen also brought home cod from Newfoundland. Wine and spirits were plentiful, too, and always had been since the isles were home to many privateers.
Even before the French Revolution, Guernsey was an entrepôt, a place for temporary storage of goods and provisions held free of any duty for exportation to another port or country. Being a free port, the British Parliament had no right to levy taxes in the Isles and the Isles themselves had no desire to levy taxes on goods brought to and then exported. Thus Guernsey and the rest of the Isles could import goods from any country, not an enemy of Britain, free of British taxes.
There were no bonded warehouses in England in the 18th Century, so warehouses were built on Guernsey to store and mature wine and spirits until they were needed in England. During the war with France, Guernsey warehouses were filled with brandy, wine, tea, rum and tobacco, all in high demand and taxed in England. In my story, Freddie’s brother-in-law keeps a warehouse on Guernsey to store his goods.
The first newspaper printed on Guernsey appeared in 1789 under the title of Gazette de L’Ile de Guernesey. It was published every Saturday in French and its size was that of a small sheet of letter paper. It contained local news and items from the Paris journals. In 1791, its publication was discontinued for a short time, but it re-appeared in 1792, under the same title.
In 1794, during the Reign of Terror, the first mail packet sailed from Weymouth to Jersey. Informed that postal packets would be crossing the English Channel to and from the islands, the Admiralty asked that “His Majesty’s Cruisers be directed to keep as far as may be an eye on the Packet Boats to prevent their being taken by the Enemy.” Indeed, protecting one particular packet leads to a battle on the English Channel in my story.
Guernsey was a hopping place!
Love in the time of revolution
Zoé Ariane Donet was in love with love until she met the commander of the royalist army fighting the revolutionaries tearing apart France. When the dashing young general is killed, she joins the royalist cause, rescuing émigrés fleeing France.
One man watches over her: Frederick West, the brother of an English earl, who has known Zoé since she was a precocious ten-year-old child. At sixteen, she promised great beauty, the flower of French womanhood about to bloom. Now, four years later, as Robespierre’s Terror seizes France by the throat, Zoé has become a beautiful temptress Freddie vows to protect with his life.
But English spies don’t live long in revolutionary France.
We are delighted to welcome back to our blog fellow Pen and Sword author, Naomi Clifford who loves nothing better than nosing around old archives to find stories of forgotten people.
Today Naomi’s going to share with us some information about her latest book, so we’ll hand straight over to her.
In Ford Madox Brown’s painting The Last of England, painted in the middle of the 19th century, a young couple on the deck of a ship bound for Australia gaze grimly out to sea, the White Cliffs of Dover behind them. Perhaps they have left hunger and trauma behind them. Perhaps they are merely convinced that better fortunes lie overseas.
Emigration grew throughout the early part of the century: the Irish potato famine, changes in farming and industry, high taxes – all contributed to a great movement of people to dominions across the water. Many went to Australia and Canada but America was perennially popular.
Although there are no reliable statistics before about 1800, it has been estimated that in the first decade of the 19th century more than 20,000 people emigrated to America from the United Kingdom, most of them from Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland. A good proportion of them earned their passage by hiring themselves out as indentured servants, their labour sold on by the captain after landing. Some were veterans of the long wars with France, who had been unable to settle or find employment. Others simply found life in Britain and Ireland untenable: wages were low and food prices were high. The steerage of packet ships crossing the Atlantic was stuffed with the labouring poor and their families, who no doubt earnestly hoped for significantly better prospects overseas.
Abraham Thornton, who in the middle of September 1818 left the family farm at Shard End in Castle Bromwich, Warwickshire and travelled to Birmingham to catch the stagecoach to Liverpool, was not one of these.
His reason for quitting England was simple: he was hated, notorious throughout the country. In the opinion of most people, he had escaped his rightful fate: swinging on the gallows for the brutal rape and murder of Mary Ashford.
Thornton, the only suspect in Mary’s death, was tried at Warwick Assizes in August 1817, but to the surprise of many was acquitted. Rumours that witnesses and jurymen had been paid off by his father were rife and a few months later Mary’s brother started a civil prosecution in London. The case gripped the country, partly because early on in the proceedings Thornton challenged his accuser to hand-to-hand combat, and the rest of the case was devoted to deciding whether this could legally take place. The public was appalled when the case collapsed. Thornton seemed once more to have evaded justice.
Once in Liverpool, Thornton browsed the newspapers for a suitable passage. He booked a place on the American-owned packet ship The Independence which was scheduled to sail for New York on the 25th. Fixed sailing dates was a recent innovation, brought in by a group of New York Quaker businessmen who developed the idea of creating a ‘shipping line’ by contracting several vessels to sail on specific dates between established ports. In autumn 1817 they advertised the first service in the Black Ball line, using large three-masted square-rigged schooners. Sailings started in January 1818.
Soon two ships were travelling across the Atlantic each month each way. Rather than follow the trade winds across the Atlantic, the American captains preferred the most direct route – it was rougher but faster. Thompson incentivised his team: If an eastbound sailing was completed in under 22 days or westbound in under 35, the captain was given a new coat, and a dress for his wife.
The Independence was not one of the Black Ball ships (rival shippers were quick to copy Thompson). In the end, however, Thornton was prevented from boarding after he was recognised by a fellow passenger who objected to the prospect of being at close quarters for at least six weeks with a possible murderer.
Aged 25, and of average height, broad and beefy, with a square jaw and thinning dark hair swept forward over a bald patch, Thornton was easy to recognise. His portrait had appeared in numerous pamphlets while the case was in play and had been printed in The Observer.
It is quite possible that in Liverpool he wore the same black hat, black coat and beige leggings he had on at his numerous court appearances in London. There was also something less tangible but equally notable – an aloof confidence, which had so struck the newspaper journalists who saw him in court that they remarked on it in their reports.
A few days after failing to board The Independence, Thornton managed to leave England. He bought a place on The Shamrock which was aiming to leave ‘immediately’ for Baltimore, which probably meant ‘as soon as the agent had booked sufficient cargo and passengers’.
Most of those who disembarked The Shamrock would have moved on pretty swiftly – Baltimore was the primary gateway to the West. Thornton, however, apparently headed north to New York and into almost complete obscurity.
Back in England, there were rumours about what had happened to him but none can be verified. Like many a traveller before and after him, he found protection in the vastness and anonymity of the US.
Over the years, the Ashford-Thornton case became known primarily for its effect on the statute book – it led directly to the rescinding of two medieval laws, appeal of murder and trial by battle – rather than the question of Thornton’s guilt or innocence. His solicitor and others speculated that Mary had not been raped and murdered but had drowned herself in remorse for ‘transgressing’ with Thornton in a field on their walk home. Naomi Clifford has uncovered evidence to show that the truth about the events of that night has been hiding in plain sight for 200 years…
It is our pleasure to welcome a new guest to our blog. She writes under the nom de plume of Erato. Her latest book is a fictional account of the relationship between Prinny, the Prince of Wales and the infamous George Bryan ‘Beau’ Brummell.
Why should a story about beauty and fashion be about a bunch of men? — When Beau Brummell takes centre stage, what else can the book be about?
Many modern grooming habits, which we take for granted today, were established by Beau Brummell. These include the exclusively drab colours for men’s formalwear, the absence of lace and frills, and the practice of bathing daily. (Brummell’s bathing habits were so mystifying to the Regency gentlemen that they actually lined up at his house to watch him bathe every morning — a lengthy procedure, as the Beau was quite thorough about it, taking as much as two hours to complete his washing).
In The Cut of the Clothes, we learn about Brummell from the viewpoint of his famous friend and rival, the Prince of Wales, later Prince Regent, later King George IV. It was the Prince’s support that allowed Brummell to claim the sort of influence he obtained over the London ton, but soon the young Beau began to overshadow his mentor’s influence. Famously, when someone once asked what Brummell would do if he lost the Prince’s support, he quipped, I’ll cut young George and make a fashion of the old one. (The old one being the Prince’s father, George III.)
The practice of social “cutting” was what led to perhaps the most famous piece of Brummelliana: when the Prince at last became fed up with Brummell’s insults, he cut Brummell, and made his decision clear at a party.
As it is told in The Cut of the Clothes, from the Prince’s viewpoint:
He had lately won an almost unheard of £20,000 at the table. To commemorate this achievement, he and his core dandy friends were to throw an extravagant ball; one which I daresay must have consumed a goodly portion of the funds it was meant to celebrate having gained. Every body who was any body in the ton was to be there. Frances, Isabella, even Caroline were invited (though I understood the lattermost to have left the country for Italy by then, praise be to God.) Lord Byron would be there. Frederica and my brother were to attend. Not a name was missing from the guest list, but for one. It was mine.
This was surely no oversight; the Beau must have known I had cut him, and have therefore influenced his friends (with whom I was still connected) not to invite me as any guest of their own. And yet, as Prince Regent, I did not need an invitation.
It was like a modern droit du seigneur: if I chose to attend at any ball or assembly, invited or not, it was considered an honor to the hosts to have me there. Naturally, Mr. Brummell was to be at this event, and I surely had no desire to see him again; but I took into consideration how many others whom I dearly loved and wish’d to see, would be there.
Was that wretch to deprive me of my company, of my happiness? Never! I wrote to the hosts of this party, announcing my plans to attend notwithstanding their little oversight about inviting me. There was no need to ask their permission.
The fashionable Argyle [also Argyll] Rooms had been rented to accommodate this glorious event. It is a most splendid location: the entrance hall is painted with frescos of Corinthian pilasters and compartments, footed with green marble. It was there, waiting to greet the guests, that I saw my four hosts in all their tasteful finery: Alvanley, Mildmay, Pierrepoint and, naturally, the Beau himself. They were lined up, two to each side, in suits so well tailored that there was not a single wrinkle between them.
It was my polite duty to greet them. I began at the left side, speaking first to Mildmay; then across to Pierrepoint. Beside him was Brummell, eyes glaring at me despite his false smile. I passed him over, making every display of not having noticed him at all, as if the man were no more visible to me than a f–t. People around us saw what I had done; I could feel a sudden chill to course through the whole room. I had just affronted the great Beau Brummell, and made known to everybody my cut of his company. I crossed back to the left to greet Alvanley, and that done, was about to make my way up to the vestibule and stairs.
Then loudly, loudly, oh! so loud, there was a cry from behind my shoulder in the voice which I knew belong’d to Brummell:
Aw, Alvanley, who is your fat friend?
Every person who stood in that passageway cringed. There was a moment of silence as nobody knew what to do. Then I heard, dreadfully, the rising sound of a giggle: a crescendo that soon became a mighty roar of laughter. Everybody was laughing, and this delight was being had at my expense. Brummell was plainly quite pleased with himself to have thus humiliated me.
If you have ever wondered “Who was Beau Brummell?” then you might like to read the account of his reign as the king of fashion in The Cut of the Clothes.
We would once again like to welcome back to our blog, Classics teacher and author of The Elephant of Exeter Change: A Tale of Cruelty and Confinement in Georgian London, William Ellis-Rees.
William’s guest post this time has as its subject, Empress Josephine, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. Josephine is of course extraordinarily famous, and many biographies of her have appeared over the years. However, William’s research has unearthed a curious story which does not appear in the standard works, and which sheds light on a fascinating corner of her life. His fascinating book tells more about her obsession with the collecting of animals and plants, Josephine in the Mountains: The curious story of the Empress’s journey from Paris to the Alps.
For most visitors to Paris, the château of Malmaison will not be high on their list of must-sees. There are perhaps more obvious attractions: museums and churches, the Seine and its bridges, the grand boulevards and the romantic back-streets.
But Malmaison, bought by Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife Josephine in 1799, is for those who make the pilgrimage to the outskirts of the city quite simply fascinating. I first fell under its spell many years ago when I embarked on extensive researches into its history, and I still find that it has the power to evoke the atmosphere of the Consulate and the First Empire. The château is crammed with images of Napoleon’s military exploits, and the furniture and furnishings showcase the opulent decorative style he made fashionable.
But above all it is Josephine’s role in this particular story — a role made possible by her ambition and energy — that gives Malmaison its special appeal.
Plants and animals
Josephine, who is not always remembered in the most favourable light, was, in fact, a very considerable connoisseur of landscaped gardens.
She employed a succession of designers to lay out the park of Malmaison in the ‘English’ style, which called for purling streams, follies and toy farms and apparently natural arrangements of trees and plants.
Josephine was in her element. She used her influence and wealth to turn Malmaison into the centre of an extensive scientific network, along which plants flowed into Paris from the furthest corners of the earth, and then, once acclimatised in her magnificent glasshouses, out to municipal gardens in every region of France.
She collected animals, too, and her exotic creatures turned the park into something not unlike an Old Master’s vision of the Garden of Eden.
Josephine’s interest in natural history found triumphant expression in her patronage of the 1800 expedition to Australia, which Europeans then called New Holland.
The expedition, sailing in two ships, was led by a seasoned captain, Nicolas Baudin, but he clashed with members of the scientific team — the mariner and the intellectual were not obvious travelling companions! Although the voyage was arduous, New Holland proved to be a land of almost magical beauty, and the ships carried back to France a rich haul of exciting new plants and animals. These had been earmarked for the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, but Josephine was quick to claim her share. And so it was that the glasshouses at Malmaison boasted numerous New Holland species. So it was, too, that black swans floated on the ‘English’ river, and kangaroos hopped about their enclosure in the park.
Journey to the mountains
Josephine shared with many of her contemporaries a passion for mountain landscapes — she built a Swiss chalet at Malmaison and kept a herd of Swiss cows — and in 1810 she set off for the Alps. She had only recently been divorced by Napoleon, and her journey to the mountains may be seen as in some sense deeply personal, and maybe even as a spiritual process of self-discovery. Given the circumstances — she had been rejected in favour of the powerfully connected Marie Louise — Josephine must strike us as a rather forlorn figure. Even so, she travelled with a graceful entourage and was fêted along the way.
One day a young man by the name of Joseph-Louis Bonjean was introduced to her. What happened as a result of this meeting is an intriguing story, and, if you want to find out more, I would urge you read my recently published Josephine in the Mountains!
Suffice it to say here that for one of the two travellers, the illustrious Josephine and the humble Bonjean, nothing was ever the same again. As one might expect, they later went their separate ways, but, as I show in my book, Bonjean’s name was not entirely lost. What we have here is perhaps not the obvious story of Josephine. My concern is not principally her rise to prominence, nor her marriage to and her divorce from Napoleon. My story is about another — the other — Josephine.
We are absolutely thrilled to be welcoming back the author Regan Walker whose latest book has just been released – A Secret Scottish Christmas and today she’s written a guest blog about orangeries.
Whether you call them orangeries, hothouses, greenhouses or conservatories, buildings in which plants were allowed to grow in an environment sheltered from the weather were much in vogue in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the warm air of these glassed buildings, one could grow flowers (oleander, hibiscus, lily of the valley and camellias, among others), vegetables (kale would have been popular in Scotland), oranges and other citrus as well as other fruits (cherries, peaches, plums, pomegranates and figs). Perhaps most favoured of all were the exotic pineapples.
The name “orangery” reflects the original use of the building as a place where citrus trees were often wintered in tubs under cover, surviving through harsh frosts and snow, as they do in my story, A Secret Scottish Christmas. It is there the heroine often takes her morning runs.
The Romans are credited with the first greenhouses to grow fruits and vegetables, but the Italians are given credit for the orangery during the Renaissance when glassmaking techniques enabled sufficiently large expanses of clear glass to be produced. Though some in Scotland imported citrus trees from Spain, at least one of my sources said it was from Italy the Scots imported small budded orange trees.
Originally built to protect Queen Anne’s citrus trees from the harmful winter weather, orangeries in Britain became status symbols among the wealthy in Scotland as well as England. Early orangeries were built as extensions to the house, heated by charcoal braziers. But, as time went on, it became the fashion to have a separate “greenhouse” and, after 1816 when hot water heating came into being, the heating source might be outside the building.
Growing Pineapples in a “Pinery”
Discovered by Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1493, pineapples became a rare delicacy in Europe and were associated with power, wealth, and hospitality. In Britain, the practice of bringing pineapples to the dining table was not just for the aristocracy but extended to the gentry. The list of gentlemen engaged in this horticultural activity includes such notables of Georgian society as the poets William Cowper and Alexander Pope and the architect Lord Burlington.
The pineapple was a testament to the owner’s wealth and to his gardener’s skill and experience. Producing a crop of tropical fruit in Scotland before the advent of the hot water heating system in 1816 was a remarkable achievement. Several varieties were grown, but the one most common in Scotland was the Queen pine.
The Dunmore Pineapple, a folly ranked “as the most bizarre building in Scotland”, is located in Stirlingshire, Scotland. Dunmore Park, the ancestral home of the Earls of Dunmore, includes a building containing a hothouse constructed in 1761 by John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore. There, among other plants, he grew pineapples.
The south-facing ground floor was originally covered with glass windows. The heat was provided by a furnace-driven system that circulated hot air through cavities in the wall. The smoke from the furnace was expelled through four chimneys cleverly disguised as Grecian urns.
Sir James Justice, an 18th-century Scottish horticulturalist and gardener, developed an incredibly efficient glasshouse on his estate at Crichton, combining the bark pits for succession and fruiting plants under one roof. In a letter to Philip Miller and other members of the Royal Society in 1728, he proudly announced,
I have eight of the Ananas in fine fruit.
Glasshouse cultivation was an important part of 18th-century horticulture and many of the inventions we now take for granted were developed or refined during this period, such as the use of angled glazing, spirit thermometers and the furnace-heated greenhouses called hothouses.
Young pineapple plants were often grown in “tan pits” lined with pebbles at the bottom followed by a layer of manure and then topped with a layer of tanners’ bark into which the pots were plunged. The tanners’ bark, oak bark soaked in water and used in leather tanning, was the most important as it fermented slowly, steadily producing a constant temperature for two to three months. It remained in use until the end of the 19th century.
Three developments changed pineapple cultivation: hot water heating in 1816 (allowing the stove and its fumes to be located outside the orangery), sheet glass in 1833, and the abolition of the glass tax in 1845. With these, glasshouses for pineapple cultivation became very large structures.
Enjoy your trip through the orangery at the Stephen estate in Arbroath, Scotland in A Secret Scottish Christmas!
Spies and Scots and Shipmasters, oh my!
Twin brothers Nash and Robbie Powell of Powell & Sons Shipping, London, sail with their fellow Agents of the Crown to Scotland for a secret celebration of Christmastide, a holiday long frowned upon by the Scottish Kirk. But more than Christmas is being kept secret. The two brothers have accepted an assignment from the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth to ferret out a fugitive fomenting rebellion among the Scots.
Aileen Stephen, the only daughter of an Aberdeen shipbuilder, had to be clever, devious and determined to gain her place in the family business. She succeeded to become a designer of highly coveted ships. One night, a man’s handsome face appears to her in a dream. When two men having that same face arrive on a ship full of Londoners, Ailie wonders what her second sight is telling her. Is the face she saw a portender of the future, a harbinger of danger, or both? And which of the two Englishmen is the one in her dream?
Older than Nash by a mere five minutes, Robbie has always been protective of his twin. When he realizes Nash is attracted to the sister of their Scottish host, he thinks to help matters along. But Nash wants no help from his brother, not where Ailie Stephen is concerned because Robbie is attracted to the girl himself!
Two brothers vie for the affection of the Scottish lass but only one stirs her passion. Which one will it be? And what will she do when she learns they are spies?
We are delighted to welcome back to our blog, the author Naomi Clifford. For her book Women and the Gallows 1797-1837: Unfortunate Wretches, Naomi researched the stories of the 131 women who were hanged in England and Wales between 1797 and 1837. Here she outlines the last days of the notorious poisoner Mary Ann Burdock.
For 25% off the RRP and free UK P&P phone 01226 73422 or visit Pen and Sword Books and use discount code WATG25 on the checkout page.
People passing by the solid stone gatehouse on Cumberland Road in Bristol would not necessarily be aware that it is all that remains of the city’s New Gaol and that it holds a truly grisly history. Two women were executed on the flat roof above the entrance: Sarah Harriet Thomas, the last person publicly hanged in Bristol, in 1849, and Mary Ann Burdock in 1835. 
A record crowd waited hours in the rain to witness Mary Ann’s final moments, at 1.40pm on 15 April 1835. The Bristol Mirror estimated the numbers at 50,000 and described it as ‘the largest assemblage of human beings we ever beheld’, their mass stretching ‘the entire line of Coronation Road, from the distance of 200 yards beyond the New Church, to the Bridges, and from the top of the river banks down nearly to the water’s edge’. While they assembled there was a bit of a carnival atmosphere; people did not seem overly impressed with the seriousness of what was about to happen.
Then at about 1.30pm, if they were close enough to get a good view of proceedings, they watched a small female figure dressed in black appear on the platform accompanied by the prison Governor, under-sheriff, turnkeys, executioner and the chaplain, the Rev Jenning. They might have heard Jenning intoning the funeral service… ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life…’ At this point, as understanding that events were reaching a climax rippled through the crowd, the feeling amongst the spectators changed. A ‘shuddering and anxious silence’ pervaded.
Those close enough to the gatehouse would have perceived that there was a hiatus on the platform while an umbrella was called for – whether for Mary Ann or for the Chaplain was unclear. Probably only the official entourage on the platform and the newspaper reporters, who were allowed special access, would have heard the Governor ask Mary to move to her place on the trapdoor and her refusal: ‘I will wait for the umbrella.’ The Governor again insisted and again she refused. But the Rev Jenning resumed reading the service and Mary Ann was led reluctantly but not resisting to the drop. The journalists noted that her face suddenly drained of colour.
Why was there such a degree of interest in this particular execution? Why such enormous crowds? Certainly, Mary Ann’s gender was a draw. This was the first hanging of a female in Bristol since 1802 when friends Maria Davis and Charlotte Bobbett were dispatched on St Michael’s Hill holding hands, punishment for abandoning Davis’s 15-month-old son on Brandon Hill where he died of exposure, and the first since 1832 when William Clarke, Thomas Gregory, Christopher Davis and Joseph Kayes were hanged for rioting. There was the added factor that Mary Ann was young – 30 or 35 at most – and attractive, and her crime had given her a new level of local notoriety. The public was much exercised at the time by an apparent spike in poisoning murders by women.
Burdock was born Mary Ann Williams at Urcop near Ross on Wye in Herefordshire. Aged 19, she joined the household of Mr Plumley, a poulterer living in Nicholas Street, Bristol but was abruptly sacked for petty theft and ‘other improper acts’. Soon afterwards she married Charles Agar, a tailor, but he left her and she then lived with Mr Thomas, a married gentleman’s servant. Later, she ‘formed a connection’ with Mr Wade, who kept a lodging house at 17 Trinity Street. A son and daughter were born but it is not clear who their fathers were. Mary Ann appeared to live by her wits. She was illiterate and, as the middle classes tut-tutted to each other, had no knowledge of religion.
It was in the Trinity Street house, in October 1833, that one of the lodgers, Mrs Clara Smith, a widow in her fifties, was suddenly taken ill with severe stomach pains and expired soon afterwards. Mary Ann told anyone who was interested that Mrs Smith had died in poverty and had no relations and she herself hastily arranged a burial for her lodger at St Augustine’s Church.
But Mrs Smith was not poor. Quite the opposite. She was known to hoard large quantities of cash because she did not trust banks and kept her money, possibly as much as £3,000, in a locked box in her room. It did not go unnoticed that soon after her death, Mr Wade and Mary Ann started doing noticeably well: Wade was able to pay off his debts and bought £400 worth of stock to start a business. But Wade’s own run of luck was short. By April 1834 he too was dead and within weeks Mary Ann was bigamously married to Paul Burdock. She was still legally married to Charles Agar, of course.
A few months later, Mrs Smith’s relatives, who had been living abroad, arrived in Bristol and started making inquiries about her estate. Suspicions were aroused. Mrs Smith’s body was exhumed and the contents of the stomach sent to the analytical chemist William Herapath of Bristol Medical School, who identified arsenic.
On 10 April 1835 Mary Ann came to trial at the Guildhall before Sir Charles Wetherell, the same hardline anti-Reform Recorder of Bristol whose arrival in Bristol for the assize in 1831 had provoked civil disturbance during which four people were killed and 86 wounded and after which Clarke, Gregory, Davis and Kayes were hanged.
Mary Ann’s trial lasted three days, ending with a nine-hour summing up by Wetherell, after which the jury retired for 15 minutes and returned a verdict of Guilty. Execution was inevitable .
Two days later, on the morning of her death, dressed in a black dress, bonnet and veil and wrapped in a dark shawl, Mary Ann attended the condemned service in the prison. She sat in chapel ‘sullenly silent, never once rising or kneeling’. At one o’clock, leaning on the Governor’s arm, she was led out to the press room situated under the platform in the gatehouse to be prepared for the gallows. Her bonnet and shawl were removed, her arms pinioned, a white cap placed on her head and the rope put around her head. According to newspaper reports, it was only then that she responded to Jenning’s prayers and uttered loudly ‘Lord have mercy on my soul’ and ‘Christ have mercy on my soul.’
Understandably, she was in no hurry to proceed to the next stage and when reminded that it was time to go said, ‘Dear gentlemen, the time is short – it is hard to die.’ She asked to be remembered to her husband, who seems to have abandoned her, and friends. Faced with the stairs up through the gatehouse to the roof, she again hesitated but when the Governor offered assistance, declared that she could manage.
On the platform, the executioner William Calcraft fastened the rope to the gallows, pulled the white cap over her face and placed a handkerchief in her hand. This was to be the signal she was ready for him to release the trap door. Within seconds she dropped the handkerchief and was hanged. ‘A thrill of terror pervaded every countenance,’ according to the Bristol Mirror. Mary Ann died relatively quickly ‘with a slight convulsive movement of the hands’, her ‘stoutness’ apparently helping to speed her end.
Mary Ann Burdock’s body was taken down from the gallows and casts were made of her head and bust for the use of doctors at Bristol Royal Infirmary, after which it was buried within the precincts of the gaol, the Anatomy Act of 1832 having ended the practice of dissection of murderers’ corpses. Three weeks later ‘P.R’ wrote to Richard Smith, chief surgeon of the Infirmary, with the conclusions of a phrenological analysis of the casts, which concluded that they indicated Destructiveness, Combativeness, Secretiveness, a lack of Benevolence as well as ‘a masculine degree of force and energy’. That energy was, of course, now extinguished.
The next and last person executed on the roof of the gatehouse was 19-year-old Sarah Harriet Thomas, convicted of bludgeoning her elderly employer to death. It was a traumatising scene. Sarah was dragged struggling and screaming to the roof of the gatehouse, pleading for mercy until the end. The prison governor fainted.
The gaol closed in 1883, replaced by the prison at Horfield, and the site was sold to Great Western Railway. The gaol ruins were gradually removed and the ground levelled for rail yards and buildings. The gatehouse, now Grade II listed, is all that remains. Now a shiny new development is planned, the entrance to which will be through the gatehouse. As they pass through perhaps residents and visitors will spare a thought for the souls who were dispatched just a few metres above them.
 A total of nine people were executed on the flat roof above the entrance to the gaol. The original gatehouse, first built in 1820, was demolished in 1831, having been damaged in riots, and was rebuilt in 1832. Historic England.
 Bristol Mirror,Royal Cornwall Gazette 18 April 1835.
 Charles Agar, Burdock’s legal spouse, later sued Stuckey’s bank for the contents of Mary Ann’s bank account, some of which was probably ill-gotten gains from Mrs Smith. He won.
Late Georgian Manchester was a buzzing hive of industry thanks to its canal and road links. People flocked to work in its textile factories. In about 1816, it took mail-coaches about thirty hours to travel from London to Manchester. But this was no provincial backwater; it had thriving religious and cultural institutions.
The Collegiate Church (later the Cathedral) was the town’s main place of worship. It was renowned for the mass baptisms and marriages which took place regularly there (because people had to pay extra fees if these ceremonies were carried out in other local churches). But other denominations had recently built their own places of worship. Roman Catholics had two chapels (Rook St, (1774) and Mulberry St (1794)). The Dissenters had had a chapel in Cross St since 1693 (nearly destroyed by a mob in the early 18th century), which had been extended in 1788.
The Methodists had a large chapel in Oldham St (mostly funded by William Brocklehurst), along with several other chapels in the area, including one at Gravel Lane in Salford. At this date Manchester only had a small Jewish population, who worshipped at the Synagogue in Long Millgate; they had a burial ground in Pendleton, near St Thomas’s Chapel.
The famous Literary and Philosophical Society (1781) met regularly at George St. Members had to be elected to the Society, which had a whopping 2-guinea entrance fee, and a guinea yearly membership fee. Its members included the famous scientist John Dalton. A News Room and Library (the Portico) opened in 1805; four years later, the New Exchange opened, where businessmen and merchants met to transact their business dealings.
The town had had a theatre since 1753 (possibly earlier), and stars from the London theatres regularly trod the boards here. The first Theatre Royal (in Spring Gardens) burned down in 1789; the new Theatre Royal opened in Fountain St in 1807, but like many other establishments, it was bedevilled by financial problems. By 1816 the Theatre Royal had ‘elegant saloons’ in the boxes (4s admission), or you could pay one shilling to sit in the gallery.
Regency gentlemen and belles graced the ballroom at the Assembly Rooms in Mosley Street, with its glittering chandeliers and mirrors. Dancers refreshed themselves in the elegant tea-room. Regular concerts were held at the Assembly Rooms.
Manchester was also home to many charities such as schools, Sunday schools, and hospitals. Did you know that Manchester had its own ‘spa’ at the end of the Infirmary Walks? Well-to-do locals could subscribe to the Public Baths supplied by a local spring; it cost half a guinea for a year’s subscription. Bathers could enjoy the Cold Bath, Hot or Vapour Bath, or the ‘Matlock or Buxton’ Bath.
But Manchester had its darker side. There was a recently built prison in Salford (the New Bailey), which opened in 1790 and replaced the former unsanitary House of Correction at Hunt’s Bank. Weaver Samuel Bamford and the orator Henry Hunt were imprisoned at the New Bailey following their arrest in 1819. They had been attending at a mass meeting at St Peter’s Field to campaign for parliamentary reform. Several people were killed when local magistrates sent yeomanry cavalry into the crowd to arrest Henry Hunt – the infamous ‘Peterloo massacre’.
‘Manchester Heroes’. Contemporary print showing the Peterloo Massacre, courtesy Library of Congress.
We are delighted to welcome another new guest to All Things Georgian: William Ellis-Rees. William is a Classics teacher with a serious sideline interest in researching and writing on lesser known historical topics. Having published articles on various subjects in Country Life, Garden History and the gardening journal Hortus, he is now about to publish a book on Josephine Bonaparte, which, far from being a full-blown biography of the Empress, sheds light on a fascinating corner of her life and William is also working on another book, in which he returns to nineteenth-century London and its environs to tell the true story of a tragedy that shocked the nation.
Today, William is here to tells us a little more about his book, The Elephant of Exeter Change: A Tale of Cruelty and Confinement in Georgian London, which is available from Amazon as an e-book (follow the highlighted links to find out more). With that, we will hand you over to William to share some more information.
How odd to think that a restaurant and a coffee shop in London’s Strand, almost opposite the Savoy Grill, were once the ramshackle building known in the early nineteenth-century as Exeter Change.
At street level the Change—short for “Exchange”—comprised a jumble of shops and stalls selling walking sticks and umbrellas, suitcases and saddles, corkscrews and combs and any number of other useful items. Above these was a menagerie, and even now, long after I started work on this hidden corner of London history, the bizarre notion of caged animals floating above a crowded city street surprises and delights me.
The elephant on the first floor
The elephant at the heart of the story travelled to England from Kolkata (Calcutta at the time) on board an East India Company ship in 1811. The ship’s captain, Robert Hay, who had been horribly injured in an encounter with French warships off Mozambique, was an honourable man, and he kept a protective eye on the elephant even after he returned and sold it to a theatre. The London stage was the elephant’s first taste of fame, but its unwelcome celebrity was only truly established when in 1812 it passed into the hands of Stephen Polito, the owner of the menagerie at the Change.
The animals in the room above the Strand not only entertained and frightened the paying public: they also satisfied a curiosity about the world that lay beyond England’s shores.
Polito and Cross
Stephen Polito, and the man who took on the menagerie in 1814, Edward Cross, were a distinctly nineteenth-century phenomenon. Whereas they presented themselves as respectable businessmen, and scientists of a sort, others regarded them more accurately as dealers and showmen. Polito and Cross certainly knew about animals, but they were not exactly naturalists: they were motivated by profit, and their exhibits were kept in cramped conditions, and were often treated cruelly. Even so, the taste for the exotic they profited from cut across many social divides, and Cross in particular, in his capacity as an importer and supplier, enjoyed the patronage of a number of highly distinguished clients. So when he was snubbed by the London Zoological Society, who refused to buy his animals, he founded a rival establishment in what is now South East London with the help of powerful backers. There is a splendid portrait of Cross in his sixties, with a lion cub in his arms and a silk top-hat balanced on his head. He had transformed himself from Georgian impresario into early Victorian man of means—quite a success story.
Raffles and Brookes
On the subject of the London Zoological Society, an important figure in the story is Thomas Stamford Raffles.
Although principally known to history as the founder of colonial Singapore, Raffles was also the prime mover of the new zoo, the birth of which in 1826 was not unrelated to the elephant’s tragic end. And it is at this moment that the extraordinary Joshua Brookes makes his entry.
Brookes was a renowned London anatomist, although his image suffered from his dealings with the notorious resurrectionists. For details of his unique contribution to the story, I would like to refer you to my book, The Elephant of Exeter Change! Suffice it so say that Brookes found an unexpected solution to the problem of an elephant that had grown—as all young elephants do in time—to a colossal size.
In conclusion, researching the events of 1826 was a fascinating task: they were widely reported in newspapers and journals, and the commercial illustrators enjoyed a field day. But the elephant left other traces of itself—in playbills, in a jingle advertising boot polish, in a drawing-room song.
There is even a small but gruesome relic in a museum in East Anglia. The real discovery, though, was the cast of characters: the elephant itself, the one or two heroes and the several villains, and last, but by no means least, the ever-changing backdrop to a story that begins in the Indian Ocean and ends in some of the darker recesses of Georgian London.
Destruction of the furious elephant at Exeter Change. Courtesy of the British Museum
We are thrilled to be able to welcome Danielle Bond, Communications officer, for City of York Council to our blog and Dr Annie Gray, food historian and lecturer who has been recreating historic recipes for Georgian gem York Mansion House. We will now hand you over to Danielle to tell you more.
Dr Annie Gray leans over the brick chafing stove posing for photos with two woodcocks tightly gripped in her hands as little droplets of blood spatter on the ground. One thing that becomes quickly apparent when meeting Annie Gray is her passion for what she does and the constant question from people who surround her ‘are you squeamish?’ for reasons you can well understand.
She wasn’t able to get a chance to cook in the York Mansion House kitchen just yet as its completion has been slightly delayed, but the bones of this Georgian kitchen are there with a roasting spit, a chafing stove (used for warming and pictured above) and a wood burning oven. The Georgian kitchen is one of the most exciting restoration projects and will help to illustrate three centuries of cooking and eating in the house and interpret and explore the lives of those who have worked there. This is a fully restored 18th century kitchen using original artefacts and architectural features: any modern recreations are made in the traditional manner, including bricks handmade from local clay.
As we watch Annie finish preparing her historic recipes she pauses to peel open her beautifully covered, recently released book ‘The Greedy Queen’. The fantastic images of Queen Victoria’s dresses include her petite wedding dress and then a notably larger dress, clearly showing the aptness of the book’s title. Annie smiles delightedly, eyes sparkling and reads a passage about her favourite dish – the hundred guinea dish, a ghoulish-sounding monstrosity including, most notably, turtle heads arranged to look as though they are vomiting skewers of sweetbreads.
“Oh I think it sounds wonderful,” she says exuberantly to my grimacing face.
We step into a room prepared for filming and silence falls. I look across to see beef alamode sat ready to be cooked with bacon artfully needled throughout the rump as the smell of fresh garlic pierces the air. A whole nutmeg is smashed in an enviable brass pestle and mortar and a lovely copper bowl used for egg mixing is pulled in to the shot from the side.
“The copper egg mixing bowl was a vital part of the 18th century kitchen,” Annie exclaims. “if you want to replicate how the copper bowl stiffens the eggs you have to add a bit of lemon juice.”
Her love of food and history is not lost on anyone who meets her and it makes the whole experience just plain fun to watch.
I had the opportunity to sit down with her and ask a few questions as well:
1. Danielle Bond: What drew you to the history of food?
Dr Annie Gray: I have always loved history, and I’ve been a keen cook (and eater) since I lived in France when I was 16. In 2003 I did an MA in historical archaeology at the University of York, as part of which we studied food and the rituals around it, and I realised that I could combine both of my passions. I knew I wanted to work with museums and heritage sites and within the field of public history, so I was looking for a field which had the potential for wide public engagement. Everyone eats, and everyone eventually admits to an opinion on food, so it’s a great way to bring people in and then use it to explore wider historical themes.
2. Danielle Bond: What do you find intriguing about the York Mansion House kitchen?
Dr Annie Gray: It’s been fascinating working with Mansion House from the very beginning of the Opening Doors project. Watching the layers of time being progressively peeled back from a kitchen which has been in use from the 18th century to the present day is a really special and quite unique opportunity.
3. Danielle Bond: Why have you chosen the recipes of Beef alamode and woodcocks specifically?
Dr Annie Gray: We’ve used a menu from 1789, so we know these dishes were cooked at the Mansion House, and woodcock bones were found in the course of archaeological work in the courtyard.
4. Danielle Bond: What is your favourite piece in the York Mansion House kitchen and why?
Dr Annie Gray: The spit, which is a 19th century addition. Spit roasting was so prestigious in the past, and yet now it’s almost completely lost. I know from working in country houses with spits that as an object it’ll be really interesting for visitors, but more than that, it was the sole object which remained in the kitchen to give a hint of its past when I first looked round them over five years ago.
5. How do you think a kitchen and food can give us a unique view on history?
Dr Annie Gray: Food is a universal: we all eat, and we do it a lot. It’s the one thing we all have in common, and yet we all do it so differently. Through food we can gain insights into class, and beliefs, and lives as lived, not merely as reported. There’s a growing realisation that history isn’t all about men with guns charging across the world, but is made up of little moments, and countless people whose names we may never even know. Food helps us get beyond the stuff so many of us were taught at school and into the grimy, violent and unbelievably exciting underbelly of the past.
Here’s to more cooking and history from Annie Gray, I’m looking forward to seeing her first cooking experience in the York Mansion House’s kitchen.
I am so excited for this Georgian gem in the heart of York to re-open after its extensive and careful restoration with Richard Pollitt, Mansion House curator at the helm. The Opening Doors Restoration project for York Mansion House was made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, funding from City of York Council and a variety of grants and generous donations totalling £2.3 million. The project improves the visitor experience by beautifully restoring this unique piece of York’s architectural and civic history, allowing more people than ever to enjoy it.
York Mansion House will be open to visitors in the early Autumn, please like us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on events and happenings.
We are delighted to hand you over to a returning visitor to our blog, the lovely Regan Walker who has been busy carrying out her usual, meticulous research for her latest romantic Georgian romance, Echo in the Wind (to find out more about her latest book, check out the end of this post).
In November of 1782, Joseph Montgolfier, a French manufacturer of paper began to wonder if rising smoke might be used to carry a balloon aloft. With his brother Etienne, he experimented, and by June 1783, the brothers Montgolfier built a balloon made of silk and lined with paper that was 33 feet in diameter. They launched it, unmanned, from the marketplace in Annonay, France. The balloon rose 5,200-6,600 feet and stayed aloft for ten minutes. History was made.
Word of their success quickly spread. The French king, Louis XVI, who was known to dabble in science and a great friend of Benjamin Franklin, desired a demonstration.
For this flight, the Montgolfier brothers constructed a balloon about 30 feet in diameter made of taffeta and coated with a varnish of alum for fireproofing. The balloon was decorated with golden flourishes, zodiac signs, and suns symbolizing King Louis XVI.
On September 19, 1783, the brothers made an unmanned flight before a crowd of 130,000 at Versailles, including King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. This flight was also unmanned. The next step, of course, would be a manned flight.
The first balloon flight with humans aboard, a tethered flight, was performed in October 1783 by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, a French chemistry and physics teacher, and the Marquis François d’Arlandes, a French military officer. Mindful of the dangers, Louis XVI wanted to use prisoners, but de Rozier persuaded the king to let him and the marquis have that honor. The flight was successful.
About a month later, in November 1783, de Rozier and the d’Arlandes made the first free ascent in a balloon, flying from the center of Paris to the suburbs, a trouble-free journey of two hours.
Benjamin Franklin, the diplomatic representative of America, then in France, witnessed the balloon taking off and wrote in his journal:
We observed it lift off in the most majestic manner. When it reached around 250 feet in altitude, the intrepid voyagers lowered their hats to salute the spectators. We could not help feeling a certain mixture of awe and admiration.
The Montgolfiers believed they had discovered a new gas (which they called Montgolfier gas) that was lighter than air and caused the inflated balloons to rise. In fact, the gas was merely air, which became more buoyant as it was heated. The balloon rose because the air within was lighter and less dense than the surrounding atmosphere, which pushed against the bottom of the balloon.
The limitations of using air were soon realized. As the air cooled, the balloon was forced to descend. Keeping a fire burning meant the risk of sparks setting the bag on fire. Other methods were explored, including hydrogen.
On December 1, 1783, Jacques Alexandre César Charles launched a balloon containing hydrogen from the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris before vast crowds.
Jacques Charles and his co-pilot, Nicolas-Louis Robert, ascended to a height of about 1,800 feet and landed at sunset after a flight of just over 2 hours. It is believed 400,000 spectators witnessed the launch. Hundreds paid one crown each to help finance the construction and receive access to a “special enclosure” for a close-up view of the lift off. Among the “special enclosure” crowd was Benjamin Franklin, who had become quite a fan of the aerostatic globes, as he called them. In my new Georgian novel, Echo in the Wind, this new love of Franklin’s is remembered and his thoughts at the time recalled.
The first person in Britain to ascend in a balloon was a Scot, James Tytler, an apothecary and the editor of the second edition of Encyclopædia Britannica.
Notwithstanding Tytler’s achievement, “Balloonomania” swept Britain due largely to the exploits of an Italian, Vincenzo (“Vincent”) Lunardi, who, quite the showman, styled himself as “the Daredevil Aeronaut”.
Following in the footsteps of the Montgolfier brothers in France, Lunardi arrived in London from Italy in the early 1780s determined to demonstrate the wonders of balloon-powered flight.
On the morning of September 15, 1784, nearly 200,000 people watched as Lunardi launched a hydrogen balloon into the air from the Artillery Ground on the northern outskirts of London. The envelope of the balloon was made of oiled silk, and had a diameter of 33 feet.
For the flight, Lunardi was accompanied by three companions: a dog, a cat and a pigeon. A special stand had been erected for George, the Prince of Wales, who tipped his silk hat in deference as the balloon began to rise. The balloon drifted north for 24 miles before landing safely in Hertfordshire.
Lunardi’s balloon was later exhibited at the Pantheon on Oxford Street. Lunardi made five sensational flights in Scotland in 1785, creating a ballooning fad and inspiring ladies’ fashions in skirts and hats. (The “Lunardi bonnet” is mentioned in the poem To a Louse by Robert Burns.)
The age of the hot air balloon had arrived and mankind was forever committed to the sky.
England and France 1784
Cast out by his noble father for marrying the woman he loved, Jean Donet took to the sea, becoming a smuggler, delivering French brandy and tea to the south coast of England. When his young wife died, he nearly lost his sanity. In time, he became a pirate and then a privateer, vowing to never again risk his heart.
As Donet’s wealth grew, so grew his fame as a daring ship’s captain, the terror of the English Channel in the American War. When his father and older brother die in a carriage accident in France, Jean becomes the comte de Saintonge, a title he never wanted.
Lady Joanna West cares little for London Society, which considers her its darling. Marriage in the ton is either dull or disastrous. She wants no part of it. To help the poor in Sussex, she joins in their smuggling. Now she is the master of the beach, risking her reputation and her life. One night off the coast of Bognor, Joanna encounters the menacing captain of a smuggling ship, never realizing he is the mysterious comte de Saintonge.
Can Donet resist the English vixen who entices him as no other woman? Will Lady Joanna risk all for an uncertain chance at love in the arms of the dashing Jean Donet?
We are thrilled to welcome author Claire Cock-Starkey to our blog today to share with us some fascinating information about eighteenth-century gardens, as her latest book, The Golden Age of the Garden is released today by publishers Elliott & Thompson.
During the Georgian period a new style of garden superseded the Renaissance formal garden. Gone were the parterres, the neatly trimmed box hedges and the geometric gravel pathways, and in their stead came the naturalistic styles of the landscape design movement – inspired by the English pastoral ideal.
The landscape design movement held nature as its guide – using serpentine paths to meander past organic bodies of water, to picturesque ruined follies and through artfully placed groves of trees. These gardens were designed to provide fresh vistas at every turn, with variety and contrast used to ensure the visitor was constantly delighted by the changing landscape.
The most famous gardeners of the era included William Kent, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton, all of whom contributed a great deal to what today we still consider some of the finest gardens in the land. Let us take a little tour through some of the iconic gardens of the Georgian era, with some contemporary descriptions:
Stowe gardens in Oxfordshire were one of the most famed gardens of the Georgian era. From 1713 Viscount Cobham employed architect John Vanbrugh and gardener Charles Bridgeman to begin modelling the grounds, later also engaging William Kent and Capability Brown to continue improvements.
‘Here is such a scene of Magnificence and Nature display’d at one View. To the Right you have a View of the Gothic Temple, Lord COBHAM’s Pillar, and the Bridge; in the Center is a grand View of the House, and on the Left the Piramid; the Trees and Water so delightfully intermingled, and such charming Verdure, symmetry, and Proportion every where presenting to the Eye, that the Judgment is agreeably puzzled, which singularly to prefer, of so many Beauties.’ – The Beauties of Stow by George Bickham (1753)
Also designed by prominent architect Sir John Vanbrugh, Blenheim Palace was built between 1705 and 1733. The large grounds were extensively remodelled by Capability Brown between 1764 and 1774.
‘All this scenery before the castle, is now new-modelled by the late ingenious Mr. Brown, who has given a specimen of his art, in a nobler style, then he has commonly displayed. His works are generally pleasing; but here they are great. About a mile below the house, he has thrown across the valley, a massy head; which forms the rivulet into a noble lake, divided by the bridge, (which now appears properly with all the grandeur of accompaniments) into two very extensive pieces of water. Brown himself used to say, “that the Thames would never forgive him, what he had done at Blenheim.” And every spectator must allow, that. On entering the great gate from Woodstock, the whole of this scenery, (the castle, the lawn, the woods, and the lake) seen together, makes one of the grandest bursts, which art perhaps ever displayed.’ – Observations on the Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland by William Gilpin (1786).
The gardens of Painshill near Cobham in Surrey were designed by their owner the Honourable Charles Hamilton and laid out 1738–73.
‘But Painshill is all a new creation; and a boldness of design, and a happiness of execution, attend the wonderful efforts which art has there made to rival nature. An easy winding descent leads from the Gothic building to the lake, and a broad walk is afterwards continued along the banks, and across an island, close to the water on one hand, and skirted by wood on the other: the spot is perfectly retired; but the retirement is cheerful; the lake is calm; but it is full to the brim, and never darkened with shadow; the walk is smooth, and almost level, and touches the very margin of the water; the wood which secludes all view into the country, is composed of the most elegant trees, full of the lightest greens, and bordered with shrubs and with flowers; and though the place is almost surrounded with plantations, yet within itself is open and airy; it is embellished with three bridges, a ruined arch, and a grotto; and the Gothic building, still very near, and impending directly over the lake, belongs to the place; but these objects are never visible all together; they appear in succession as the walk proceeds; and their number does not croud the scene which is enriched by their frequency.’ – Observations on Modern Gardening by Thomas Whately (1770).
The poet William Shenstone created the gardens at the Leasowes between 1743 and 1763. Shenstone intended to create a ferme ornée – an ornamented farm which combines practicality and beauty and his achievements at the Leasowes were much admired by contemporary visitors.
‘The moment I entered this quiet and sequestered valley, the superlative genius of Shenstone stood confessed on every object, and struck me with silent admiration. – I turned to a bench under the wall, and sat so absorbed, with the charms of a cascade, so powerfully conducted in the very image of nature herself, plunging down a bed of shelving rock, and huge massy stones, that, for a long while, my attention was lost to every thing else – I strove to find out where the hand of the designer had been, but could not: – surely nothing was ever held to the eye so incomparably well executed! And if we add to its analogous accompaniments, of bold scarry grounds, rough entangled thicket, clustering trees, and sudden declivities: I cannot but be persuaded, it is altogether one of the most distinguished scenes that ever was formed by art.’ – Letters on the Beauties of Hagley, Envil, and the Leasowes by Joseph Heely (1777).
In 1760 Capability Brown took out the old formal gardens and converted much of the farmland into parkland at Chatsworth in Derbyshire, substantially altering the grounds. Brown utilised many of his signature designs, such as rolling parkland, belts of trees to enclose the view and an expanse of water to reflect the vistas.
‘This extensive part presents a great variety of aspect, from the most graceful undulating hill and swelling eminence, interspersed with plantations, beautiful lawns and pleasure grounds to the bold rugged cliff and lofty mountain, well watered and richly wooded, including an area of about 11 miles in circumference, stocked with about two thousand head of deer, sheep and cattle in vast numbers, and kept in the finest possible order.
. . .
On a fine sunny day it is truly sublime, and it need scarcely be observed that we stood for a while to contemplate a scene so enchanting – a scene which a century ago could not have been dreamed of as likely to exist amongst healthy mountains and the wilds of the Peak. But it exhibits a splendid specimen of the enrichment of art, and the capability of a world, however sterile and forbidding in its natural aspect, of being converted, by persevering industry and judicious management, into a very Paradise.’ – Description of Buxton, Chatsworth and Castleton by William Adam (1847).
View of Chatsworth Looking across the Lake, British School, Government Art Collection
We are delighted to welcome a new guest to our blog, Stew Ross. Stew is a retired commercial banker who embarked on writing books more than five years ago. He enjoys writing about important and interesting historical events of Paris and its time periods. He takes his readers around Paris on defined walks to visit the buildings, places, and sites that were important to the theme of the book. Stew is currently working on two books covering the Nazi occupation of Paris between 1940 and 1944 (Where Did They Put the GestapoHeadquarters?). These books will follow his first four books—two volumes each—Where Did They Put the Guillotine? A Walking Tour of Revolutionary Paris and Where Did TheyBurn the Last Grand Master of the Knights Templar? A Walking Tour of MedievalParis (click here to find out more). Stew hopes you will visit his blog at www.stewross.com as well as follow him on Twitter and Facebook. So, now over to Stew…
I’m honored to have been asked by Sarah and Joanne to write a piece for their blog site. Although I first learned of Grace Dalrymple Elliott (1754–1823) through an article in the BBC History Magazine, it was Sarah and Joanne’s book, An Infamous Mistress which provided me an expanded view into Grace’s life and in particular, her activities during the French Revolution.
GRACE AND JULIETTE
I would like to introduce you to Juliette Récamier (1777–1849). Although twenty-three years younger than Grace, Madame Récamier had many things in common with Mrs. Elliott—although I’m not quite sure the term “courtesan” would apply to Juliette as it did for Grace. Similar to Grace, Juliette married an older man (by 30-years) and suffered a loveless and unconsummated marriage (he was rumored to have been her biological father). Each of them moved about effortlessly in the upper echelons of society but died virtually penniless. Both of these women were so gorgeous that famous artists clamored to paint their portraits.
Juliette Bernard was born into the family of Jean Bernard, King Louis XVI’s counselor and receiver of finance. Her mother ran one of the most sought after salons in Paris and it was there, at the age of fifteen, that she was introduced to and ultimately married the 42-year-old banker Jacques-Rose Récamier. By the time Juliette had turned eighteen, Marie Antoinette had heard of her beauty and sent for her. Unlike Grace, Mme Récamier hid her loveless marriage and divorce was not an option. Reportedly, she remained a virgin until the age of forty-two.
It is a wonder that Juliette’s husband escaped the blade of Madame Guillotine during the French Revolution. It seems his friendship with the revolutionary Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès (1753–1824) allowed M. Récamier to keep his head.
When Juliette was twenty-one, M. Récamier purchased the former residence of the king’s finance minister, Jacques Necker. Located on Rue du Mont-Blanc—today 7 rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin—the mansion would serve as the site for Juliette’s luxurious balls, receptions, and most important, her salon.
Besides her exquisite beauty, Juliette was well known for her Paris salon and as one of the city’s leaders of fashion. Her salon was extremely fashionable with discussions centered on politics and literary interests. Her circle of friends included Lucien Bonaparte (Napoléon’s brother), Mme Germaine de Staël, François-René de Chateaubriand, various foreign princes, and many famous contemporaries during the time of the Empire and first Restoration.
Juliette turned down an invitation to be lady-in-waiting for Napoléon’s wife, Joséphine. Coupled with her strong friendship with Mme Staël, Napoléon ordered Juliette to be exiled along with Mme Staël, a fervent monarchist and outspoken opponent of Napoléon and the Empire—Juliette moved to Italy whereas Germaine took up residence in Switzerland.
Juliette returned to Paris after Napoléon was sent into his exile (turn about is fair play?). She continued to receive visitors at her apartment located at 16 rue de Sèvres (the building was demolished in the early 20th-century).
Juliette Récamier died of cholera and is buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre. We will visit Juliette’s grave in my seventh book Where Did They Bury Jim Morrison the Lizard King? A Walking Tour of Curious Paris Cemeteries.
THE RÉCAMIER SOFA
One of the legacies Juliette left us with is the Récamier sofa. She is lounging on the sofa in Jacques-Louis David’s famous portrait of her. The original Récamier sofa can be seen at the Louvre. As you view the painting at the top of the post, notice Juliette is not wearing any slippers or shoes. When David introduced the painting to the general public there was a huge scandal over her being presented barefoot.
Recently, I wrote an account of the life and times of Dr Thomas Gibson (1648/9–1722) for Early Modern Medicine. Gibson is best known for his book The Anatomy of Humane Bodies Epitomised (at least six editions from 1682), but he was briefly physician-general to the British Army while in his 70s. He is also known in the context of his second wife, Anne Cromwell, who was a granddaughter of the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell.
While researching the piece, I read about how Gibson’s first wife, Elizabeth (1646–1692) was a widow from Stanstead St Margaret’s, Hertfordshire. Most accounts of Thomas Gibson describe Elizabeth as the widow of Zephaniah Cresset, which indeed she was, but what is left out is that Elizabeth was also widowed a second time, before marrying Gibson in 1684.
The information about Elizabeth’s life comes from her third husband who published an autobiography along with her funeral sermon, A Sermon Preach’d on the Occasion of the Funeral of Mrs Elizabeth Gibson, together with a Short Account of her Life (London, 1692), shortly after her death at the age of 46.
Gibson opens by describing how his wife had lately lived a quiet, retired life, and that she was a deeply pious woman who spent her days in charitable endeavours and prayer, and who unfortunately did not enjoy good health. He hoped her life story might provide an instructional text and others should follow her example. He claimed he was best placed to represent her life and views because of his ‘long Conversation’ with his late wife but also how he had observed her Christian walking. Their marriage was in fact only around eight years long, but it was a full six years before Gibson made a new marriage to Anne. Throughout the short autobiography, Gibson quotes extensively from Elizabeth’s spiritual meditations, explaining to the reader that her words will always be surrounded by ‘Double comma’s’ (sic) or speech marks.
Elizabeth was the third daughter of a lawyer, George Smith who practiced at Grey’s Inn, London, and who was appointed judge to Scotland in 1658. He died shortly after the family relocated to Edinburgh and Elizabeth described how vulnerable she, her mother, Hannah, and younger sister felt at being alone in a strange place 300 miles from their nearest relatives. Her father’s death then was the first of the ‘great afflictions’ which Elizabeth lived through. Soon afterwards and from the age of fourteen, Elizabeth contracted a ‘Quatane-ague’ which she had for two years. It was Gibson’s opinion that this illness was the root of all the subsequent ill-health Elizabeth endured.
It was when she was 17, and somewhat recovered, that she was married to Zephaniah Cresset. Cresset was the son of Edward Cresset Master of the alms house and school Charter-House in London from 1650-1660, but was like Elizabeth, from Stanstead St Margaret’s in Hertfordshire – indeed the Smith and Cresset family graves are alongside one another in the same church(1).
Zephaniah was educated at Magdalene College, Oxford and who was planning on working as a doctor of physic in the future. The Cresset marriage only lasted a few months. The couple were living in Elizabeth’s mother’s home at St Margaret’s, and while travelling back there from London Zephaniah fell from his horse, which caused him to contract a fever and he died within a few days of the fall.
While still a teenager, Elizabeth found herself both widowed and expecting her first child. Her son, named after his father, was born seven months after her husband’s death. Worse was to come when the child, a healthy and thriving toddler died suddenly aged just 18 months in October 1665. Elizabeth’s younger sister Mary, died at this time too, both were victims of the Great Plague which swept the country that year, and which claimed five members of Elizabeth’s family, including her father-in-law (who died in December 1665).
Her family began putting pressure on Elizabeth to remarry almost immediately, but it was around three years later that she felt moved by God to marry a physician called Thomas Dawson. Dawson graduated with a medical degree from Jesus College, Cambridge in summer 1669, and was admitted to the College of Physicians a decade later. Elizabeth and Thomas were married for almost fourteen years, and it was a source of great sadness to her that they had no children together.
Throughout the marriage it seems that she suffered from bouts of ill-health including gallstones, colic, bowel problems and jaundice. Like during her first marriage, the couple lived with Elizabeth’s mother in St Margaret’s, but following her mother’s death in 1677 the couple relocated to London.
In 1682, Elizabeth went back to her country home to recuperate from the measles. She had not been there long when she got the sad news that Dr Dawson had died suddenly in their London house. He was buried in St Alphage, Cripplegate (2).
Gibson describes how this latest bereavement caused her to suffer from ‘hysterical Colick’ for a ‘year or two’ afterwards. It was two and half years after losing her second husband that Elizabeth married Gibson. She was never wholly well during their entire seven year marriage, suffering from loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, painful limbs, and even convulsions.
It seems as though she still had some hopes of a family when she wrote a will on 20 December 1687. In it she bequeathed lands she owned in Hertfordshire to her husband, followed by any children she might yet bear him. She also placed on record her desire to be buried back at St Margaret’s next to her mother and son (3).
While the autobiography describes Elizabeth’s exemplary Christian suffering and ‘good death’, it does not appear that her stated wish to be buried back in St Margaret’s was accommodated and her place of rest is not noted.
If this post has piqued your interest in health matters at this time, Sara’s next book Maladies and Medicines: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740, co-authored with Dr Jennifer Evans, is coming out with Pen and Sword in July 2017! Keep an eye on Sara’s Twitter feed for more information (@saralread) and also Jennifer’s Twitter feed (@historianjen).
Dr Evans will also be appearing on the ‘Inside Versailles‘ programme with Greg Jenner and Kate Williams on BBC2, 26 May, so keep an eye out for it.
1 Sir Henry Chauncy, The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire (1826), p. 569.
Today we are delighted to welcome back the author, Geri Walton. Geri has long been interested in history and fascinated by the stories of people from the 1700 and 1800s. This led her to get a degree in History and resulted in her website, which offers unique history stories from the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries.
Her first book, Marie Antoinette’s Confidante: The Rise and Fall of the Princesse de Lamballe, looks at the relationship between Marie Antoinette and the Princesse de Lamballe and has just been released in the U.S and Canada.
Before we hand over to Geri we thought readers might like to know a little about her book:
Marie Antoinette has always fascinated readers worldwide. Yet perhaps no one knew her better than one of her closest confidantes, Marie Thérèse, the Princesse de Lamballe. The Princesse became superintendent of the Queen’s household in 1774, and through her relationship with Marie Antoinette, a unique perspective of the lavishness and daily intrigue at Versailles is exposed.
Born into the famous House of Savoy in Turin, Italy, Marie Thérèse was married at the age of seventeen to the Prince de Lamballe; heir to one of the richest fortunes in France. He transported her to the gold-leafed and glittering chandeliered halls of the Château of Versailles, where she soon found herself immersed in the political and sexual scandals that surrounded the royal court. As the plotters and planners of Versailles sought, at all costs, to gain the favor of Louis XVI and his Queen, the Princesse de Lamballe was there to witness it all.
This book reveals the Princesse de Lamballe’s version of these events and is based on a wide variety of historical sources, helping to capture the waning days and grisly demise of the French monarchy. The story immerses you in a world of titillating sexual rumors, blood-thirsty revolutionaries, and hair-raising escape attempts and is a must read for anyone interested in Marie Antoinette, the origins of the French Revolution, or life in the late 18th Century.
Marquis de Lafayette, the same man who played a pivotal role in the French Revolution, had earlier become a hero in the American Revolution. He became a hero after being shot in the calf of his left leg during a battle. Although Lafayette’s wound was not that serious, it kept him out of action for a time. But more importantly, it generated buzz about his heroics back in Paris.
One person who heard about Lafayette’s wound in battle was the wife of Count Philippe-Antoine of Hunolstein. Her full name was Charlotte-Gabrielle-Elisabeth-Aglaé de Puget of Barbantane. Aglaé, as she was called, was a charmer who possessed the duo attributes of being extraordinarily bright and exquisitely beautiful. In fact, even women who did not like her admitted that she was beautiful, and men were all the more vociferous in their praises of her.
Aglaé was born around 1755 to parents that had good connections with the Orléans family. In fact, Aglaé’s mother was governess to the Duchess of Bourbon, and she was the sister of the Duke of Chartres who was later known as the Duke of Orléans and still later as Philippe Égalité. He was also cousin to King Louis XVI.
Despite Agalé’s supposed close connection with the Orléans family, it seems the Duchess of Bourbon decided Aglaé possessed such “depraved inclinations” that she became “determined not have her in her retinue.” So, instead, Aglaé found herself serving the Duchess of Chartres, who was wife to the Duke of Chartres and also sister-in-law to the ill-fated Princesse de Lamballe.
This position was convenient as Agalé’s husband was one of the Duke of Chartres’s gentlemen. Thus, the Hunolstein’s life consisted of many similar amusements attended by the Duke and Duchess of Chartres. Moreover, the Hunolstein’s found themselves attending balls, operas, and the theatre with some of the most important members of French society.
The Duke of Chartres also provided frequent gaieties at his palatial Palais Royal, of which the Hunolstein’s regularly attended. The Duke of Chartres liked to live life with gusto. He was well-known for his womanizing and orgiastic festivals of lovemaking. Furthermore, he was known for his outlandish pranks:
[Once] after dinner the duke harnessed eight horses to his coach, seated himself astride … put the Princesse de Lamballe in the coach-box, his wife in the carriage and Aglaé behind her in the lackey’s place, and then rode lickety-split through the fashionable Faubourg St.-Honoré and Chaillot back to Mousseaux.
Passers-by could only imagine what the Duke of Chartres had in store as he flew past in a carriage full of women. The fact that Agalé participated in the prank shows a high degree of intimacy with the Duke. Moreover, indications are that she may have preceded the Duke’s next lover, Stéphanie Félicité du Crest de Saint-Aubin, better known as Madame de Genlis, who made no secret that she disliked Aglaé immensely.
Despite Aglaé’s intimate relationship with the Duke, Lafayette practically came to blows with someone else over her. Louis-Philippe, Count of Ségur, who descended from a noble and ancient military family, was friends with Lafayette. According to Ségur, after Lafayette became secretly attached to Aglaé, he somehow erroneously conceived the idea that Ségur was his rival.
Ségur reported that the red-headed Lafayette was mad with jealousy over Aglaé and could think of no one else. Once, under this spell of passion, Lafayette spent an entire night trying to induce Ségur to fight a duel for her. Agalé apparently knew nothing at the time of Lafayette’s attempt to fight a duel or of his jealous passion for her.
While Lafayette was fighting in America and continuing to make a name for himself, he was frequently sidetracked thinking about Aglaé. He even went so far as to write her a letter that was bundled with other letters, including some to Lafayette’s wife, Adrienne. Then in April, Lafayette received a packet of letters back.
Among the letters was one that did not make Lafayette happy. There was “a disturbing report about malicious gossip in Paris coupling his name with that of Aglaé.” Apparently, according to Lafayette, a mean trick had been played that consisted of a song about his relationship with Aglaé. Lafayette further clarified the incident in a letter to his brother-in-law:
The outcome of that pleasantry will probably be to make her forever unhappy and to make me come to swords’ points with a man against whom I can in all conscience defend myself only halfway. But the society of Paris will console itself with a song … It hurts to have them come two thousand leagues looking for me to be the hero of the current scandal and for a woman who is two thousand leagues from the flirtations and intrigues of Paris to make her the victim of some wicked fiction. Let me know, my dear brother, whether they speak to you about it as a joke or if they really make a serious bit of malice out of it.
Of all the glories heaped upon Lafayette, perhaps the most thrilling was the attention that Aglaé paid to him when he returned from America as a hero. Juicy rumours sprang up immediately accusing Lafayette and Aglaé of being more than mere friends. Before long, their relationship proved too conspicuous, too passionate, and too scandalous.
Their relationship also drew criticism from Algaé’s family, particularly her mother, the Marquise de Barbanily. Despite Aglaé’s husband being seemingly fine with Algaé’s relationship with Lafayette, the Marquise was livid about it. The Marquise thought Lafayette was too well-known and her daughter too obvious. Moreover, the Marquise hated the gossip and begged Aglaé to return to her husband. Lafayette made a half-hearted attempt to meet and smooth things over with Aglaé’s mother, but the meeting never came to fruition.
From the start, Lafayette and Aglaé’s love affair proved unhappy. Although Lafayette’s wife remained faithful and loyal behind the scenes, Adrienne’s family was extremely unhappy with the situation. Their unhappiness, in turn, made Lafayette unpopular at Louis XVI’s court, and Aglaé was shunned. Moreover, Algaé’s old lover, the Duke of Chartres, annoyed Lafayette and Aglaé at every turn.
Lafayette and Aglaé’s relationship was supposedly full of passion. Yet, with passion also came many brutal lover quarrels. Allegedly, during nearly every fight, she told Lafayette she wanted to end their relationship. Lafayette always refused to accept it.
Lafayette reputedly begged Aglaé to give him an explanation as to why their relationship should end, and then whatever she said, he refused to accept. He moped about and then became angry or persistent until he somehow convinced her to continue their relationship. Eventually, however, Aglaé begged him to leave Paris and to think about the painfulness of her situation as the constant gossip proved distressing to her.
Lafayette finally relented. In March of 1783, he travelled the dusty roads to his birthplace in Chavaniac. Lafayette had not been back there for ten years. The time and distance allowed him to think clearly, and he came to a momentous decision. His letter began, “You are too cruel, my dear Aglaé. You realize my heart’s torments,” and it ended with him reluctantly releasing her for good.
You put in my hands your peace of mind, your safety, and much more … You understand the extent of my sacrifice. … I will silence my heart. [However,] all that you are, all that I owe to you, justifies my love, and nothing, not even you would keep me from adoring you.
Although Aglaé may have thought all the gossip would stop when her relationship with Lafayette ended, it did not. In fact, one critic penned that Aglaé was “a woman who was outwardly a prude though inwardly corrupt.” There were also new claims that she was leading a dissolute life, had delivered Chartres’s child, and was currently pregnant by a lackey. Her own family became resentful towards her, perhaps even disowned her, and, thus, she gave up public life and entered a convent.
Louis Gottschalk, Lady-in-Waiting: The Romance of Lafayette and Aglaé de Hunolstein, Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1939.
Gottschalk, Louis. Lafayette in America. Arveyres, France: L’Esprit de Lafayette Society, 1975.
Ségur, Louis P. d. Memoirs and recollections of Count Segur … Written by himself … Translated from the French. Boston: E. Bliss and E. White, 1825.
A View of Paris from the Pont Neuf by Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste Raguenet, 1763, Getty Museum (image via Wikimedia Commons)
We are thrilled to welcome Dr Jacqueline Reiter who has written a guest blog for us about her first book The Late Lord: the life of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, which was published by Pen & Sword Books in January 2017.
Jacqueline has a PhD in late 18th century political history from the University of Cambridge. A professional librarian, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. She blogs at The Late Lord and you can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
So we will hand you over to Jacqueline to tell you more about The Late Lord.
I freely admit that, when I started writing my biography of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, I hoped to overturn some of the myths surrounding him. Chatham was the elder brother of William Pitt the Younger and infamous for his lazy command of the Walcheren Expedition of 1809, which was a notorious failure.
In reality, Chatham was a fascinating, complex person, certainly not the indolent fool he has been made out to be, but it seems there is no smoke without fire. I often came across what I called “oh dear John” moments (and yes, I do feel my reading all Chatham’s available personal correspondence entitles me to be on first-name terms with him).
There was the occasion when “the late Lord Chatham”, as he was known, turned up four and a half hours late to a royal function; the newspapers po-facedly traced his lacklustre attendance at Board meetings while First Lord of the Admiralty. Even in private life he was a bit of a flake and spent five weeks screwing up the courage to propose to his future wife, while everybody about him (including the object of his affections) got increasingly tetchy.
Possibly the least expected laugh-out-loud moment of all occurred while I was plodding resolutely through the 12th Report of the Commissioners of Military Enquiry (1810), focusing on the Office of the Master-General of the Ordnance.
Chatham was Master-General of the Ordnance from 1801-6 and 1807-10. His department was responsible for the production and provision of gunpowder and firearms, as well as the building and maintenance of permanent fortifications. It trained artillerists and engineers at Woolwich, thereby providing advanced scientific and mathematical education (for all classes, not just the privileged). It sponsored scientific innovation, and not merely by developing new ways of killing more people in the most explosive possible way; the Ordnance Survey Maps are so named because they were first produced by the Ordnance Office.
The Ordnance was a big, cumbersome, bureaucracy-heavy department, but its structure had evolved because it had to be clearly accountable as a public office handling an awful lot of money. Between 1803 and 1815, the Ordnance Ordinaries, Extraordinaries and Unprovided funds (voted on a yearly basis by Parliament based on pretty detailed financial breakdowns) rose from £1.27 million to between £4 and £4.6 million (with a spike of £5.3 million in 1809, when Britain fielded two enormous armies in two different fields of battle).
These were hefty sums: in 1813, Britain’s total annual budget was £66 million. Part of the remit of the Military Commissioners, indeed, was to work out why Ordnance expenditure had grown so much and so rapidly during the war and to suggest ways of reducing it.
Chatham did not appear before the Commission in person, although he did answer several questions about the office of Master-General by post. One of his staff, however, Colonel Charles Neville, did appear (on 2 April 1810). Neville did quite well during his cross-examination, but at one point he stumbled and inadvertently revealed something Chatham would probably rather had remained confidential.
Neville was only an under-secretary: the actual Secretary, Sir William Bellingham, had done virtually nothing to justify his salary since his appointment and had in fact been in Ireland for a lot of the time (because of this, his office was very much up for the chop). Neville was asked several questions about the structure of the Master-General’s personal department. It was quite small, Neville said: there were only three official messengers, two of them attached to the Ordnance Office and one personal messenger to the Master-General, who attended him when he was travelling.
This, Neville explained, was something Chatham did a lot. He was a busy man. The Master-Generalship was only one of his many official hats, the next most important of which was his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Military District. Britain was divided up into several districts, each commanded by a high-ranking general officer who controlled the military resources and the regular, militia and volunteer forces in the geographic area under their command. Chatham’s Eastern District headquarters were in Colchester, and his correspondence bears out Neville’s evidence that he spent a significant portion of each year there.
Did Lord Chatham charge travel expenses? Yes, Neville said, he did. (But of course: he was entitled to do so.) Were these checked by anybody? Neville replied: “The Bills are brought to me by his Lordship’s personal Messenger; and I strike out all Journies [sic] that do not appear directed to an Ordnance Station.”
The follow-up question was obvious: “Did Lord Chatham, whilst Master General, charge his Travelling Expenses to the Ordnance, when going to, or returning from the District in which he had a Staff Command?”
Maybe he was nervous about appearing before a parliamentary commission, but Neville blithely stepped straight into the trap laid out for him: “Yes, as he went to Colchester, which is an Artillery Station.”
“Are you aware,” the anonymous commissioner continued, “that General Officers on the Staff are not allowed, by His Majesty’s Regulations, any Travelling Expences for Journies within their Districts?”
At which point an ominous silence probably fell across the room, and Neville must have thought: “….. Oh no.”
He responded with a bland “I am not aware of any such Regulation.”
Thankfully Chatham was at this point already out of office, or Ordnance-Expensegate might well have followed…
(And if you’re wondering, Chatham charged £421.14.8 in travel expenses in 1807 – a sizeable sum!).
All of which just goes to show that expenses were as much an issue in 1810 as they were in 2010. Some things, it seems, never change.
All quotations come from Commissioners of Military Enquiry, Thirteenth Report of the Commissioners of Military Enquiry: The Master General and Board of Ordnance (London, 1811).
For our first guest post of 2017 we are thrilled to welcome back the collaborative Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife team of writers and historians, Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel also known as AJ Mackenzie to tell us about part of their research for their latest book, The Body in the Icewhich will be available from April this year.
While planning our new novel, The Body in the Ice, we discovered we needed an additional plot device. Two of our American characters needed to disappear as children and be presumed dead, only – in finest Gothic style – to reappear as adults many years later. The question was, what happened to them in the meantime? Where did they go and what did they do?
One reason why white – and black – children sometimes disappeared in colonial America was abduction by Native Americans. This sounds brutal, and it was, but there was more than simple child-snatching behind these abductions. During much of the eighteenth century, the tribes of the eastern forests of North America were in a state of war with their white neighbours, who were constantly encroaching on native lands. The fighting was often extremely vicious, and there were frequent massacres. As always in conflicts, women and children were often victims on both sides.
The white soldiers and settlers were more numerous and better armed and the thinly populated Native American tribes took losses they could ill afford. One way of making good those losses was to take white captives – children usually, but often women and sometimes men – and adopt them into the tribe. (And it must be pointed out that white settlers also kidnapped Native American children, for a different purpose: these children were to be taken away and educated, converted to Christianity and generally ‘civilised’. This practice continued in the as state, provincial and national policy in the US and Canada until well after World War Two.) Not all interactions were violent: : Penn’s Treaty with the Indians, by Benjamin West
Contemporary white accounts painted lurid pictures of captives being brutally tortured and killed. Those stories were not entirely apocryphal. Massy Harbison, abducted with her family in 1784, saw two of her young children killed before her eyes, ostensibly to stop them from crying and alerting the rescue parties that were tracking her kidnappers. Mary Jemison, captured during a raid in 1755, woke up one morning to find that her parents and several siblings, taken with her, had all been killed; her captors told her this was to prevent them from escaping.
But for other white captives, the experience was quite different. Jonathan Alder, taken at the age of nine, was treated well by his captors. After a short time he was adopted by a childless couple from the Mingo people in modern-day Ohio, who treated him as their own son. He lived a carefree life as a boy, roaming the forests hunting for game, and was entirely happy in his new situation.
Then, one day in his late teens, there came an unpleasant shock. Rather like Samuel and Emma in The Body in the Ice, Alder was told that he was now an adult, and could choose his own destiny.
One morning my Indian father called me and told me that I was now near the age that young men should be free and doing for themselves. I now had the right to come and go and stay where I pleased and was not under any restraint whatsoever, particularly from himself and my mother.1
In other words, Alder was now free to return to his original, white family. But, he says, he regarded his Mingo parents as his true family, and loved them as would have loved his own mother and father. He chose to stay.
I thanked them both very kindly for the liberty they granted me, but told them I had no desire to leave them; that I preferred to stay with them as long as they lived if I should outlive them; that they had been very kind and good to me and that I would feel an obligation to them as long as I lived. “My white mother I have almost forgotten and, of course, I shall never see again,” I told them. “I accept you as my parents. I acknowledge myself to be your son by adoption and am under all obligations to you as such.” My mother came up to me and held out her hands. She was so overcome that she did not speak, but I saw that her eyes were full. My father came forward and shook hands with me without saying anything more.2
Only much later, when both his Mingo parents had died, did Alder return to white society. Even then, he retained fond memories of his life among the Native Americans for the remainder of his days.
Others did the same. William Wells was captured at the age of eighteen by the Miami people, another tribe based in modern Ohio, and settled with them for a number of years. Adopted into the tribe, he married Wanagapeth, daughter of a chief named Michikinikwa, or Little Turtle. He became an intermediary between the Miami and the American settlers, and even though he served as a captain in the US Army, he never forgot his bonds with the Miami. Unfortunately, this incurred the distrust of both sides; the Miami came to believe that he was selling them out to the Americans, while the Americans considered him to be a Miami spy.
Life for many returnees was not easy. Simon Girty, captured by the Lenape, or Delaware people as a boy before being set free some years later, encountered many of the same prejudices as Wells. His obvious sympathy for the Native Americans incurred the anger of the American colonists (especially those who had lost family in Native American raids). Girty was branded a traitor to his people, and became an infamous hate figure on the American frontier.
Women captives often married into their adopted tribes, and ‘white’ genes were present in many Native American nations. There is a persistent rumour, unproven, that the legendary Shawnee chief Tecumseh was the son of a Shawnee father and an American mother. More prosaically, Mary Jemison grew up as the adopted child of a Lenape family and later married twice, a Lenape man named Sheninjee and, after his death, a Seneca man named Hiakatoo. She had children from both marriages. Offered her freedom and the chance to return to her own people, Mary refused. She remained with the Seneca all her life, becoming an elder of the people and assisting negotiations between the Seneca leaders and the American authorities.
Of course, the British and American authorities made efforts to recover captives, and often made the release of captives a condition of any peace settlement. But not every captive wanted to go. Of the sixty white captives handed over to the Americans near Fort Pitt (modern Pittsburgh) in 1864, at least half resisted their rescuers, and many tried to escape back to their adoptive tribes. Mary Campbell, a girl of eighteen who had been with the Lenape people for six years, was among those who preferred life with her captors.
Was this simply Stockholm syndrome? Perhaps, but it should be remembered that the white settlers in Pennsylvania and New York lived very hard lives indeed, making a meagre living from agriculture and the surrounding forests. The Native Americans had been making their lives from the land for thousands of years, and their living conditions were not so very different from those of their white captives. And some young people, at least, found more freedom and tolerance among the tribes than they did in their own society.
This is not to gloss over the harsh realities. There were cruelties and there were killings, as the accounts of Massy Harbison and Mary Jemison remind us. But, as Mary Jemison’s account in particular makes clear, there was much more than violence to life among the Indians. She talks of the kindness of her adoptive sisters in helping her to forget her sorrows and sufferings, and then, gently but movingly, tells us why she chose to stay with the Seneca people:
No people can live more happy than the Indians did in times of peace… Their lives were a continual round of pleasures. Their wants were few, and easily satisfied, and their cares were only for to-day – the bounds of their calculation for future comfort not extending to the incalculable uncertainties of to-morrow. If peace ever dwelt with men, it was in former times, in the recess from war, among what are now termed barbarians. The moral character of the Indians was (if I may be allowed the expression) uncontaminated. Their fidelity was perfect, and became proverbial. They were strictly honest; they despised deception and falsehood; and chastity was held in high veneration, and a violation of it was considered sacrilege. They were temperate in their desires, moderate in their passions, and candid and honorable in the expression of their sentiments, on every subject of importance.3
We are delighted to welcome a new guest to our blog, Julia Herdman. Julia is a history graduate who has always wanted to write novels. Her debut novel, Sinclair tells the story of a Scottish Surgeon who escapes death in a shipwreck on 6th January 1786. Having broken all his ties with Scotland and left the woman he loves to make his fortune Sinclair is forced back to London where he is introduced to a young widow, Charlotte Leadam, the owner of an apothecary shop in Tooley Street. As their business grows their relationship blossoms but when his old flame unexpectedly turns up in Tooley Street, everything he has been building is thrown into jeopardy. Before he can reclaim Charlotte’s heart, he will be tested, punished cruelly, accused of incest, and forced to face his greatest fear, the sea, once more. Sinclair will be available to buy in the New Year.
Today, she is going to tell us about Princess Dorothea von Lieven (1785 – 1857) who was the wife of Prince Khristofor Andreyevich Lieven, Russian ambassador to London from 1812 to 1834. Considered cold and snobbish by London Society Dorothea was not an instant success when she arrived fresh from the Russian court.
Her long elegant neck earned her the nickname, “the swan” by those who loved her and “the giraffe” by those who did not. Reputation did not bother her however; she was not after friendship she was after power and she used all her intelligence, charisma, and social skills to get what influence she could for the Tsar and the Holy Alliance in negotiations concerning the defeat of Napoleon and reestablishment of absolutist monarchy in Europe. Not only did she become the Austrian Chancellor, Prince Metternich’s lover she was also reputed to have had affairs or at least very close friendships with Lord Palmerston, Lord Castlereagh and Lord Grey while she was in London.
Her hard work paid off and soon invitations to Dorothea’s home became the most sought after in capital. She was the first foreigner to be elected a patroness of Almack’s where she is said to have introduced the waltz, a dance considered riotous and indecent, to England, during Tsar Alexander’s visit in 1814. It was during that visit she first met Metternich. It seems they took an instant dislike to one another. She thought he was cold and intimidating and far too self- important. He dismissed her as just a pretty woman travelling in the Tsar’s wake and treated her with complete indifference.
Some four years later, the pair met again at the Dutch Ambassador’s party at Aix-La-Chappelle. Sitting next to each other they found they had much in common – they both hated Napoleon. Their notorious liaison began a few days later when Dorothea entered the Prince’s apartment incognito.
In Metternich Dorothea had found her equal, a man who could satisfy her physically, emotionally and intellectually. She wrote, “Good God! My love, I know how to rejoice in so few things, do you understand what makes me feel true happiness, it is you, only you! My Clement, if you cease to love me what will become of me? … My dear friend promise to love me as much as I love you; our lives are pledged in this promise.”
In Dorothea, Metternich had met the woman of his dreams; she could match his intellect and his passion. He wrote, “My happiness today is you. Your soul is full of common sense your heart is full of warmth … You are as a woman what I am as a man.”
Their heated, clandestine affair soon succumbed to the requirements state; they met occasionally but corresponded frequently. Like many illicit lovers, they were tortured by their separation and the knowledge they could never be together.
Dorothea was well aware of Metternich’s reputation as a libertine seducer but she continued the relationship for eight years until she heard he had thrown her over for a younger woman. Desolate, she broke off their relationship in 1826. By the end references to Metternich in her letters were cold and spiteful and it seems time did not heal her broken heart. She had nothing good to say about him or his third wife when she saw him in Brighton in 1849 describing him as “slow and tedious” and his wife as “stout and well-mannered.”
She ended her days in Paris as the ‘wife’ of the French politician Guizot. It was said that although she was a widow she refused to marry Guizot because it would mean giving up her title ‘Serene Highness’ something the proud and regal woman was never going to do. Like her former lover, she was ancien regime through and through.
Dorothea died peacefully at her home in Paris, aged 71, in January 1857. She is a recurring minor figure in many historical novels, notably those of Georgette Heyer. Heyer portrays her as a haughty, formidable, and unapproachable leader of society, but in The Grand Sophy she is described as “clever and amusing“, and there is a passing reference in that book to her role in political intrigues. Metternich died in Vienna two years later aged 86 the last guardian of the ancien regime, which had long since passed into history.
Dorothea Lieven: A Russian Princess in London and Paris, 1785-1857 By Judith Lissauer Cromwell
The Congress of Vienna: Power and Politics After Napoleon By Brian E. Vick
We are delighted to welcome the Georgian Gentleman, aka Mike Rendell, who like us, writes a blog about all things Georgian. Mike’s book In bed with the Georgians: Sex Scandal & Satire in the 18th Century has just been published by Pen and Sword Books and is available at a discounted price direct from the publisher.
We will now hand you over to Mike to tell you more about the female coterie:
One of the things I enjoyed researching for my book “In Bed with the Georgians – Sex Scandal and Satire” concerned a gathering of ‘fallen women’ known as The New Female Coterie. It was an informal gathering of women who were ostracised by polite society because they had been caught out. In other words they had all committed adultery and suffered public humiliation. The group was headed by Caroline, Countess of Harrington, a woman of great notoriety on account of her insatiable appetite and sexual proclivities. Members would meet for a drink and a gossip at a high-end London brothel run by Sarah Prendergast. This gave members an opportunity to take their pick of any male customers they fancied and to exchange news and views with other ‘fallen women’. So, let’s have a look at some of the other members. One was The Honourable Catherine Newton.
She had figured in a particularly infamous divorce case – a case where the lurid details of her repeated infidelities left little to the imagination. The details were published in 1782 as “The Trial of the Hon. Mrs. Catherine Newton, Wife of John Newton… Upon a Libel and Allegations, Charging her with the Crime of Adultery”.
She was 16 at the time of her marriage to the 58 year-old John Newton, and the trial records show a history of her cavorting nearly-naked with a succession of stable lads, house servants and so on. Servants being servants, there were many willing to testify to the occasions when hands were seen placed on naked thighs, or that inappropriate assistance had been given when Catherine was being helped to mount her horse. Housemaids complained of having to re-make the beds several times each day, and there was much evidence of adjoining rooms not being locked, and of undergarments being found in inappropriate places… A young lad called Master Baggs appeared on the scene and Catherine’s attentions to him were so obvious that even her old goat of a husband noticed. He kicked her out and following her very public divorce she drifted to London and became part of the circle of disgraced ladies who sought support from each other’s company.
Another club member was Penelope Viscountess Ligonier. Like many women born into aristocracy, Penelope was still a teenager when she got married. Lord Edward Ligonier was the lucky guy. At 26 he was ten years older than his bride, and in celebration of the marriage, Lord Ligonier asked the artist Thomas Gainsborough to paint their portraits. The fact that he chose to have his portrait taken alongside his favourite horse shows his priorities!
Edward was an army-man through and through, and whereas he probably knew quite a lot about horses and how to look after them, that was more than could be said about the way he treated his young wife. Still, the couple put up the charade of the typical married aristocrats. They entertained many of their foreign friends at their home, Cobham Park. One of their visitors was Count Vittorio Alfieri, an Italian dramatist.
Attractive, witty and hungry for the love she wasn’t getting from her husband, Penelope embarked on a very public affair with the Count. When the cuckolded husband found out about the adultery he challenged the Italian count to a duel, which took place in Green Park in London in May 1771. Edward, who was a soldier, managed to wound Alfieri but not kill him. He then applied to Parliament for a Private Bill of Divorce, which meant that all the lurid details of his wife’s adultery came out into the open. She may have hoped that the Italian would stand by her and offer marriage, but as he knew full well that she had been sharing her affections with several of the household servants, he declined.
Penelope faced financial ruin and social ostracism, so meeting up with women of her same social class who were in the same predicament as herself was probably a great comfort, as well as providing her with company and an extra income as “guest of honour” at the Prendergast brothel.
There is even a story that at one particular masquerade where everyone wore disguises she inadvertently ended up making love to her former husband. He was not aware of the mistake until he found that she had given him a dose of what was known as the “Neapolitan Complaint.”
What scandalised society was that when Penelope wrote about the affair with her Italian lover she made it clear that she did not regret it for a second, and that everything was a price worth paying for escaping from a loveless marriage. That to the Georgians, was a truly shocking confession.
Another member of the coterie was the beautiful Henrietta, wife of the First Baron Grosvenor.
Despite the fourteen year age difference, she had married the man within a month of their first meeting, presumably unaware of his appetite for gaming and whoring. He is generally thought to have lost some £250,000 on the horses and at the gaming tables – a vast sum of money even for the gambling-mad eighteenth century. More to the point, he was one of the most debauched characters of the time, spending his time with a constant succession of whores. This left Henrietta with the view that what was sauce for the gander was sauce for the goose, and she embarked on an affair with George III’s brother, Henry, Duke of Cumberland.
In the court case which followed, Henrietta had tried to play down the significance of her affair by throwing as much dirt as possible at her husband, producing witness after witness from a variety of brothels across town. It worked in so far as it enthralled the readership of the newspapers which reported every word of the trial, but failed in the sense that her husband was awarded £10,000 in damages – a sum met by King George III, and hence ultimately by the British taxpayer.
The mud-slinging produced strong moral outrage at Henrietta’s conduct (presumably the conduct of her lover and her husband was no worse that was to have been expected). She became the object of innumerable bawdy songs and faced hostility in the press. The legal separation from her husband left Henrietta with a paltry annual allowance of £1200, and it seems that she may well have supplemented her income by ‘a spot of freelance work’ at Sarah Prendergast’s seraglio.
While her husband was alive, and was unable to divorce her because of his own adultery, she remained in social limbo until his death in 1802. Within a month his widow had become married to George Porter, Sixth Baron de Hochepied, and lived quietly and out of the public eye until her death in 1828.
For anyone wanting to know more about the New Female Coterie I thoroughly recommend Hallie Rubenhold’s book The Scandalous Lady W (Lady Worsley’s Whim).
What was the Georgian equivalent to today’s disposable lighter? Well, back today with us is the lovely Laurie Benson, host of the fascinating blog The Cozy Drawing Room which you may wish to check out. Laurie is also a recently published author which you can find out more about at the end of this post. So, in the meantime we’ll hand you over to Laurie to find out the answer to the question above.
There are times when you’re writing historical fiction that it becomes obvious your characters will need to do things differently than you do in the twenty-first century. I had one of those moments recently when I was writing An Unexpected Countess, which is set in London during the Regency era.
In the story my hero, the Earl of Hartwick, is out in the middle of the night searching for a clue that will lead him to the location of a piece of the missing French Crown Jewels. It’s dark in the building he is in. If this was a contemporary story, Hart would pull out his flashlight (or torch as the British call it) and he would have sufficient enough light to thoroughly search the building. But Hart lives in 1819, so instead of a flashlight he would have used something like this small folding pocket candle lantern.
It’s really handy, right? Here is the part where the author in me rubs my head in frustration. How would he have lit it? There were no lighters. Did they even have matches back then? I’d heard of matchstick girls, but were they around in the early 19th century and did they sell the same kind of matches we use today?
It’s times like this I’m especially grateful for my friends who own antique shops because they can often help point me in the right direction and this time one of them did by telling me about tinderboxes.
Tinderboxes were used in the Georgian era to create fire. They could be small enough to fit inside a pocket and were made of wood or metal and contained flint, steel, tinder, and sulfur-tipped matches. The tinder that was used would generally have been char cloth, which is a small piece of cloth made from linen, jute, or cotton that would ignite easily from a spark.
To start a fire you would strike the piece of steel against the flint close to the char cloth that was nestled in the bottom of the tinderbox. The spark from that action would ignite the char cloth. You then could light your sulfur-tipped match off the burning tinder to light a candle or your pipe. To extinguish the char cloth, you would simply close the box. This would preserve the remaining tinder for future use.
Tinderboxes were used throughout the Georgian era but gradually were replaced by friction matches, which were invented around 1827.
Laurie Benson is an award-winning author of historical romances published by Harper Collins. Her current series, The Secret Lives of the Ton, takes place in London during the Regency era and are available from Amazon and all good book sellers. When she’s not at her laptop avoiding laundry, she can often be found browsing museums or heading for the summit on a ridiculously long hike. You can also catch up with Laurie on Twitter and Facebook.
We are delighted to once again welcome to our blog the lovely Geri Walton, blogger and now author. Geri, like us, has long been interested in history and fascinated by the stories of people from the 1700 and 1800s. This led her to achieve a degree in History and resulted in her website which offers unique history stories from the 18th- and 19th-centuries.
Marie Antoinette has always fascinated readers worldwide. Yet perhaps no one knew her better than one of her closest confidantes, Marie Thérèse, the Princess de Lamballe. The Princess became superintendent of the Queen’s household in 1774, and through her relationship with Marie Antoinette, a unique perspective of the lavishness and daily intrigue at Versailles is exposed.
Born into the famous House of Savoy in Turin, Italy, Marie Thérèse was married at the age of seventeen to the Prince de Lamballe; heir to one of the richest fortunes in France. He transported her to the gold-leafed and glittering chandeliered halls of the Château de Versailles, where she soon found herself immersed in the political and sexual scandals that surrounded the royal court. As the plotters and planners of Versailles sought, at all costs, to gain the favour of Louis XVI and his Queen, the Princess de Lamballe was there to witness it all.
This book reveals the Princess de Lamballe’s version of these events and is based on a wide variety of historical sources, helping to capture the waning days and grisly demise of the French monarchy. The story immerses you in a world of titillating sexual rumours, blood-thirsty revolutionaries, and hair-raising escape attempts and is a must read for anyone interested in Marie Antoinette, the origins of the French Revolution, or life in the late 18th Century.
The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Orleans first met when the Duke visited England in 1783. The two men hit off because both men were wealthy and enjoyed idling away time. They were known to regularly “drink, bet at races, and gamble with dice and cards.” A second visit by the Duke made in the spring of 1784 had them visiting a variety of race tracks where they bet on the horses, and a third visit by the Duke, in the autumn, cemented the men’s relationship further when they went to Brighton, which was little more than a fishing village at the time.
Despite the Duke (b. 1747) being 15 years older than the Prince (b. 1762), the two men had other commonalities that encouraged their friendship. Both men enjoyed all sorts of vices, such as wasting time and constantly spending money. This caused the Prince’s father, George III, to view the Duke as a bad example for his son. In addition, reports about the Duke’s orgies did not help his standing with the King nor did the fact that George III had already issued a “royal proclamation against vice and immorality, and all kinds of swearing, drunkenness, and licentiousness.”
Despite the King’s proclamation, the Prince continued to live a wanton lifestyle. Similar to the Duke, the Prince also had a number of mistresses. In fact, one mistress the Prince and the Duke had in common was the divorcee Grace Dalrymple Elliott. The Prince first met Elliott when he was eighteen. They eventually had an affair, which resulted in Elliott giving birth to his daughter on 30 March 1782 and caused the Prince to supposedly remark, “To convince me that this is my girl they must first prove that black is white.”
The Prince did eventually admit the girl was his although even before her birth, the Prince and Elliott’s relationship had fizzled. With the Prince tired of Elliott, he introduced her to his friend the Duke of Orleans. Despite being married, the Duke was interested in Elliott. (He had married on 6 June 1796 Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon, who was sister-in-law to the ill-fated Princesse de Lamballe.) The Duke pursued Elliott, made her his mistress, and, by 1786, she moved to Paris to be closer to him.
As time passed, the Duke and Prince’s relationship continued to strengthen. At one point the Prince commissioned a portrait of the Duke, and the Duke ending up buying a house in Brighton because of his frequent visits to England. Moreover, during one of the Duke’s stays in Brighton, the Duke “had 28 fallow deer brought from France as a present to the Prince, who had recently formed a kennel of staghounds in Brighton.” Unfortunately, on the way to deliver them to the Prince’s kennels, a revenue officer seized the deer, and it was only after much wrangling that the deer were released and sent on their way to the Prince.
The two men also forged closeness in other ways. First, the Duke of Orleans invested large sums of money in England, and, second, he embraced everything “English” to the point the Duke made anglomania fashionable in France. Another reason for the men’s closeness was their common dislike for Louis XVI and the French monarchy. The English were “bitterly exasperated against the court of Louis XVI for aiding in the emancipation of America,” and, so, the Prince saw little wrong with the Duke supporting French revolutionaries, who were pitted against Louis XVI and the monarchy.
Despite the Duke and Prince’s similarities and common dislike for the French monarchy and Louis XVI, their friendship eventually began to wane. It completely ruptured after the Duke voted for the death of his own cousin, Louis XVI. Before the infamous vote, Elliott asked the Duke of Orleans, how, in good conscience could he allow his King and his cousin to be condemned by “blackguards.” He reassured her nothing would ever induce him to vote for the King’s death. However, he also noted “he thought the King had been guilty by forfeiting his word to the nation.”
When the vote was taken, the Duke did not keep his word to Elliott. Later, after the vote, Elliott would say there was no one she detested more than the Duke. The Duke’s vote also caused many people to believe the Duke was attempting to undermine the monarchy and seize power for himself. This belief resulted in him becoming “a hated figure among the exiled aristocrats. He was [also] soon a figure of contempt for fellow republicans, who whatever their political principles, retained a belief that blood was thicker than water.”
Although the Prince of Wales disliked the French monarchy and Louis XVI, he also believed blood was thicker than water. After he heard the news that the Duke had voted for the death of his cousin, Louis XVI, the Prince of Wales became livid. “He leapt up from his chair, dragged down from the wall the portrait of Philippe that he had commissioned from Joshua Reynolds decades earlier and smashed it to pieces in the fireplace.” Thus, the friendship of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Orleans ended forever.
Ambrose, Tom, Godfather of the Revolution, 2014
Bishop, John George, The Brighton Pavilion and Its Royal and Municipal Associations, 1900
Craik, George Lillie and Charles MacFarlane, The Pictorial History of England During the Reign of George the Third, 1849
“London, (Thursday) March 24,” in Derby Mercury, 24 March 1785
Major, Joanne, and Sarah Murden, An Infamous Mistress, 2016